HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After a decade of helping hundreds of families, a Leeward Oahu homeless shelter closed its doors permanently Wednesday.
The lease on Ulu Ke Kukui is up and the property is being returned to the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands.
The agency says it wants to turn the complex into homes for beneficiaries, but not right away.
And state officials confirm they’re thinking about turning the former homeless shelter into one of Oahu’s first “ohana zones.”
The 80-unit complex is nestled in a quiet Maili neighborhood just off Farrington Highway behind St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church.
“This is an exciting opportunity for our beneficiaries for Hawaiian Homelands,” said Jobie Masagatani, chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission. She says the agency is planning a major renovation of the property.
“We don’t know yet whether it will be rental or condominium. If we do condo it will be the first time we’ve ever done that,” said Masagatani. “Or even a rent with an option to purchase. That’s also been discussed.”
But while the search for a developer is underway, the buildings won’t sit empty.
The state Department of Human Services confirms it’s “... exploring possible uses of the site, including the use of the property as an ‘ohana zone’ to address homelessness on the Leeward Coast.”
Linda Toli lives across the street, and supports the proposal.
“I think it’s a very good idea,” said Toli.
But the majority of the people HNN talked to said they aren’t interested in having an “ohana zone” in their neighborhood.
“We already know they have drug problems, alcohol problems, mental illness problems and not to mention there will be thieves that comes along with that. We don’t need it. They already brought down our value by building Ulu Ke Kukui,” said Craig Wood, president of the Palm Grove Association.
Others call it a waste of money.
“They got plenty homeless shelters for these homeless people and they don’t want to go in the shelters. They don’t want to go there. They’d rather live on the beach,” said resident Charleen Balecha.
The Ige administration says it’s planning to open a minimum of three “ohana zones” on Oahu along with one each on Kauai, Maui and Hawaii Island.
The governor’s homeless coordinator says the state isn’t interested in setting up tent cities. Instead, the plan is to house people in existing buildings on city or state land.
The state Legislature put up $30 million of taxpayer money to get the project off the ground with the first “ohana zone” expected to launch in early January.