Citing successes, city to expand its shipping container shelter

City gives go ahead to expand Sand Island homeless shelter
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One month ago, Jennifer Wright was living on the beach.

She became homeless when her landlord sold her apartment and she couldn't find another unit in her price range.

"It's hard to find a place in Hawaii with Section 8 (rental subsidies). Every time I would go on Craigslist, no Section 8, no Section 8," Wright said.

She admits it took some convincing to move into Hale Mauliola, the city's homeless shelter in Sand Island where people live in retrofitted shipping containers.

But now that she's here, Wright says she's is on track to be in a new permanent place any day now.

"I don't know how they do it. They're amazing. They're made for this job," she said.

The average stay here is just under 60 days. And since last November, when it opened, the shelter has placed 105 clients into permanent housing.

About 30 percent went into the city's housing first program, which places homeless into permanent housing and offers them supports to help them stay there. About 11 percent were rapid rehousing clients.

And 40 percent either moved in with a family member, were placed into transitional shelters or went into drug treatment centers. The rest went back to the mainland or got apartments without government assistance.

"Two individuals are now homeowners back on the mainland so this facility really has been a game changer for our system," said Kimo Carvalho, spokesman for the Institute for Human Services, which manages the shelter.

Given the success of the program, the city is looking to expand it, adding 15 new units at a cost to the city of about $125,000.

Officials hope to have the new units move-in ready by the end of the year. Money left over from the original project will pay for three new staff members.

Wright said being in the program helped her thankful she opted to move off the streets.

"Give yourself a rest," she said. "It's not Beverly Hills but you have a place to sleep and a place to eat and people who care."

The lease on the Sand Island property expires in September 2018, but the city is trying to extend it.

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