KANEOHE (HawaiiNewsNow) - When Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell came calling to the faith community for help in addressing Hawaii’s homeless crisis, a Kaneohe church jumped at the challenge.
The First Assembly of God Church in Kaneohe heeded Caldwell’s call and has spent the past two years coming up with a unique and special solution.
On Wednesday, Senior Pastor Klayton Ko unveiled what he and his team have been working on – dome shelters for the homeless.
“This is a great day to see the domes finally delivered – and our baby being delivered,” Ko said. “This is literally a dream come true.”
The white dome shelters, which resemble igloos, sit in a line on the church’s property and were inspired by an Alaska company that makes fiberglass domes for medical and refugee camps.
Ko realized those domes could work here in Hawaii.
The church worked with local design firm G70 to navigate the zoning and construction permitting to bring these innovative shelters to life.
There are 12 domes on the church’s Kaneohe property: nine will house families, one will house a resident manager and two will feature six full restrooms.
“This has been a vision that we received over two years ago,” Ko said. “Our whole intention was to provide a solution for the homeless crisis.”
As for who will be allowed to live in the shelter – Ko envisions that the domes will house single mothers and their children.
Ko describes the igloo-like homes as “warm, roomy and beautiful” and says families will be allowed to stay up to nine months.
During this time, the church will provide programs to equip their residents with useful skills and help them transition into independent living accommodations.
Church officials say every family will be assessed on a case-by-case basis for admission and will discuss options should their length of stay need to change.
“I think people who move in will feel a sense of value, dignity and ohana,” Ko said.
The church received around $500,000 in monetary donations, and many companies donated their services and labor.
“We are thankful the many who see the need and who have shared their ohana in reaching out to the homeless crisis,” Ko said.
The project took two years to complete because the church had to work with the city to get the proper permitting for these new circular structures, which need to be vetted for structural integrity and safety.
Nearby neighbors to the church property initially expressed some concern to the potential residents. The church insisted that it will do whatever is in its power to make sure the selected families are not dangerous, but rather a benefit to the community.
Ko said he hopes to help these formerly homeless families become part of the community.
“This homeless shelter will not be a risk to the community,” Ko said. “We want to add value to the community”
The church partnered with the Institute for Human Services, which will provide social services to the single mothers and children living there.
“This is hugely needed,” Ko said. “This won’t even scratch the surface of the homeless crisis here in Hawaii.”
The first family is expected to move in sometime in November.