Lanai opens its first domestic violence shelter - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Lanai opens its first domestic violence shelter

(image: Hawaii News Now) (image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now) (image: Hawaii News Now)

On the small island of Lanai, they're not people, they're family. No handshakes, just hugs. There are no stop lights nor mailboxes, just landmarks. Everyone knows everyone by name.

"Everybody grew up together," said Pualani Kauila, who was born and raised on the island.

But for years, residents have been desperate for services. One of which was public safety.

On Friday, the island’s first domestic violence shelter opened and victims now have a safe place to escape from an attacker. About 50 community members of an island of only about 3,000 residents gathered together in hand and prayer in front of the home on Fraser Avenue for the shelter’s grand opening.

“We needed one a long time ago," Kauila said.

Maui County's Women Helping Women Executive Director Stacey Moniz said they have been advocating for a shelter on Lanai for nearly two decades.

"We knew that the need was here because we were also shipping women over to Maui for shelter and that's really hard if all your family and community, your kids go to school, you work here on the island, It's really impossible to relocate to another island and maintain your lifes," Moniz said.

The shelter blends in with the other homes along Fraser Avenue that go straight through the heart of town. It’s not far away from a park and a church and it may not seem like much, but it's already a safe haven for six people.

Moniz said Pulama Lanai granted them a home for the shelter about two and a half years ago. She said Women Helping Women applied for funding last year, and it was approved in July. The home was renovated back in November and transformed into a place that can fit a total of 12 people. It's already half full.

"Domestic violence doesn't have a choice of people and who they are, whether you from a small island or a big island where there's a big population, domestic violence can be in anybody's family and anywhere," said Lanai Coordinator for Women Helping Women Mililani Woolsey Martin.

“The generation has changed so much, the people have changed, there's so many other people moving in now, it's not the same like it used to be,” said Kauila.

The shelter is unlike any other across the state. The locations of most domestic violence shelters are a secret to protect the privacy and safety of its residents. However, Moniz said since Lanai is so small, the secret wouldn’t last long. So instead, it’s conveniently located across the Lanai police station.

"If you notice, we don't have any fencing. But the cool thing about that is our community is gonna take care of it. The community of Lanai, the people here are gonna take care of the people that end up staying in there," Woolsey Martin.

Moniz said to assure safety of the residents, the shelter will also be equipped with security and staffing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, plus a panic button in case of an emergency. 

"It's great because Lanai is so small, if there is a problem everybody knows. And if you're trying to take care of yourself, there's no place to go because everybody knows you. So this is great," Kauila said.

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