After delays, new Kakaako homeless shelter moving forward

After delays, new Kakaako homeless shelter moving forward
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After months of delay, the state's newest homeless shelter is starting to take shape.

The Family Assessment Center in Kakaako was supposed to open in February but a broken sewer pump stalled the project.

The facility is now expected to open at the end of September.

The 5,000 square foot building can house about 15 families or 60 people.

That extra space is much-needed, officials say.

The latest "point-in-time" count shows there are about 513 homeless on Oahu, totaling about 2,143 people. The goal is to get them off the streets and immediately connect them with service providers to assess their needs.

Officials hope that everyone who comes into the facility will be moved to transitional or permanent housing in less than 90 days.

"Rather than working with a family for a traditional 24 months and offering services in a shelter instead, we connect the families as quickly as possible to permanent housing and connect them with services in their home," said Scott Morishige, the governor's homeless coordinator.

The shelter will likely take a number of homeless living in Kakaako. People like Jimmy Yasy and his wife, who have been living in Kakaako Waterfront Park for nearly two years.

Yasy blames mistakes he made decades ago for his homelessness.

"I think because of my past felony records, they just shut you off," he said.

Although he's interested in moving into the new shelter, he says other families in the area aren't. "Most of them like the outdoor living. They don't want to be locked up in there," Yasy said.

But shelter officials are hoping that more relaxed rules at the shelter will attract people who have been turned off by other facilities.

The new shelter won't require identification to get in, and there won't be a fee to stay there.

As the state prepares to host its first guests there, officials are looking to the community to donate necessities like air mattresses and food.

But what Morishige wants the most are landlords willing to give these families a chance.

"Affordable housing. And the lack of affordable inventory is one of the biggest challenges," he said.

The Family Assessment Center is designed to be temporary. Officials say they want it to remain open no more than two years.

Morishige says rent will be paid by one of three different housing subsidies that have been made available for the project.

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