By Brooks Baehr - bio | email
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The Hawaii Public Housing Authority is seeking volunteers to help renovate 150 vacant public housing units during the month of February.
New housing authority Executive Director Hakim Ouansafi said the state has 6,195 residential units in its public housing inventory, but 400 units are vacant because they need repairs. Of those 400, the housing authority has identified 150 units that need relatively simple inexpensive repairs.
"Some need painting, changing a faucet, cleaning up, getting it clean, sanitary and safe for the families to move in," Ouansafi told Hawaii News Now.
Donations of materials and equipment are welcome. Assistance from plumbers, electricians, and other tradesmen with a specific expertise is welcome, but volunteer laborers are needed most. He invites anyone willing to mop, wash windows, or paint to get involved.
"If we can get 150 units back on line, that's 150 families that are off the streets, and if we can do it in 30 days, that's going to be a wonderful thing. We can't do it alone. This agency can't do it alone," added David Gierlach, Chair of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority's Board of Directors.
Ouansafi said more than 13,000 families are on the waiting list for public housing.
"The way I look at it, if I can't do it with my staff in three days, but I can seek help and do it in one day, I'm going to seek help because those statistics are actual families and individuals some of which are on the street right now," Ouansafi said.
The initiative has been dubbed the "I Have a Dream" campaign.
"The 'I Have a Dream', obviously, is because of the Martin Luther King occasion, but truly it is initiated because there are many keiki (children) that do have a dream to have a roof over their head, and if you don't come as a community, as business, as residents, as government to do something about it ... it's not going to be done or it will be done in a delayed manner," Ouansafi said.
The Catholic Church, which helped renovate 15 units in Waianae and Wahiawa in August, is pledging its support. So is model and actress Kea Ho, entertainer Don Ho's daughter.
"It is not just a problem that's a government problem or a state problem. It is a community problem," Kea Ho said during a press conference to announce the initiative Monday.
"We're thrilled to be able to try to lend our support," said Kent Anderson, Housing Development Director for the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu.
Anyone willing to help is urged to contact the Hawaii Public Housing Authority.