Homeless shelter for young adults rapidly expands thanks to state’s ‘ohana zones’ plan

Homeless shelter for young adults rapidly expands thanks to state’s Ohana Zones plan

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new homeless shelter for young adults in Kailua is suddenly expanding thanks to the governor’s “ohana zones” plan announced last week.

RYSE is getting $600,000 in state grants and is creating new bed space this weekend just in time for Christmas.

Isaiah Marks is among the tenants. He had been homeless in Kaneohe, and is looking for stable work.

He hopes to put his hand print on a special wall in the shelter by early next year. It’ll show he’s graduated from the program and moving out into permanent housing.

The shelter is six months old and so far there are hand prints from two former residents on the wall.

“They can look at it like a memento or a goal to achieve,” he said.

RYSE stands for Residential Youth Services and Empowerment, a first-of-its-kind shelter in Hawaii for young adults 18 to 24 on state property next the Oahu Youth Correctional Facility.

With a wait list and nearly always full, RYSE is aimed helping a growing epidemic of homeless youth.

"As soon as they turn 18, they're an adult and they're supposed to fit into this adult model and it just doesn't work," said RYSE executive director Carla Houser.

After last week’s $17 million ohana zones announcement by the governor, RYSE will be getting a $600,000 grant.

"It's surreal in a way but I think it's really a reflection of all of the work we have done up to this point," said Houser.

That unexpected funding means they’ll expand by 50 percent. They’ll go from 20 to 30 beds, add staff and adolescent behavioral health and substance abuse counseling on site.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for kids all around that are homeless because it gives them an opportunity to get back on track,” said Marks.

Houser credits teamwork for the rapid expansion plans.

“I get to dream big and they get to help me make that dream a reality. What keeps them going is the relationships with our young people,” she said.

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