Former hospital for Hansen's Disease patients transformed into affordable rentals

Former hospital for Hansen's Disease patients transformed into affordable rentals
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

PEARL CITY, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The former site of a Pearl City hospital that once treated Hansen's Disease patients has been transformed into an affordable rental community with 331 units, half for seniors and the other half for families.

The final phase of the project opened its doors Monday after a special dedication ceremony and blessing in honor of the former Hansen's Disease patients who once lived there.

"It will make a good home for those who cannot afford and it's wonderful," said Barbara Marks, a Kalaupapa resident who stayed at Hale Mohalu hospital for nine years.

The main settlement for Hansen's Disease patients was and remains on Molokai, but there were really two communities -- the one in Kalaupapa and another at Hale Mohalu in Pearl City.

The fourth and final building of the Hale Mohalu II development has been named Kalaupapa Ohana in their honor.

"It makes me so proud to see the name," said Clarence "Boogie" Kahilihiwa, a Kalaupapa resident who also lived at Hale Mohalu.

Nearly 1,000 people have applied for the 84 units at Kalaupapa Ohana, which apartment managers say is move-in ready.

City and state officials say they're excited about the families the project will house in the future and the legacy it commemorates.

There are minimum and maximum income requirements for tenants. Two bedrooms start around $495 a month, with three bedrooms reaching no more than $1,300 a month. Section 8 vouchers will be accepted.

"We're all aware of the tremendous need for affordable housing in our community. We see the impacts every day. People on our sidewalks, in our parks," said Roy Amemiya, city managing director.

Gov. David Ige said the state needs more projects like the one in Pearl City.

"We do know that the long-term solution to homelessness is really about affordable housing and ensuring that our community have housing that they can afford to live in," he said.

Mark Guddal, project resident manager, said it's gratifying to see people moving into the new units.

"It's always exciting," he said. "We sometimes have some tears when we do the first walk-throughs of the apartments, which is gratifying for us."

Officials say the affordable development is the perfect use for a site that housed so many who were unwelcome elsewhere.

"These units are to help people that in the market cannot find a place to stay -- even some people who are living on the streets today. We're hoping they'll find their way here. That would be the fulfillment of a wonderful dream," said Wally Inglis, president of the Coaltion of Specialized Housing.

The first residents of Kalaupapa Ohana" at Hale Mohalu Two are expected to move-in within days and property managers say it's likely the building will be filled within weeks.

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