'Beyond grateful' families move in to new housing village for homeless

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The plantation-style community is a first of its kind in the country, a product of city and state officials working with the private sector in order to create a partial solution to one of Hawaii's biggest problems.

Now, the doors to Kahauiki Village officially opened for the first time.

Thirty families who were previously homeless were given the keys to their new homes on Friday in what quickly became an emotional day for many of those involved.

"I'm beyond grateful," said Nohealani Ching, a home healthcare aid and mother of three. "My kids, the way my kids reacted... They're exited. They know that this is their house."

The concept was inspired by the plantation villages of Hawaii's past – places where people work as one to create a thriving community. Those are the values that got this project, which is the brainchild of businessman Duane Kurisu, off the ground.

"When I saw the families, I couldn't help but get teary eyed," said Kurisu.

Depending on the size of the unit, tenants pay between $700 and $900 per month. Kurisu says all of the money will go towards maintaining the community.

"About $250 will go towards utilities. So electricity, water, internet and cable," said Kurisu.

He says the rest will pay for expenses, like 24/7 security, repairs and the cost of the on-site childcare and preschool, which is one of the benefits that allow single mothers to work.

The site, off Nimitz Highway, was once home to an air-soft and paintball gun park but has long been overrun by illegal homeless campers. Now, the 12 acres have been transformed into a community of one- and two-bedroom homes.

The state, which owns the land, transferred the lot to the City and County of Honolulu, which then leased the property to Aio Foundation for 10 years, with the option to extend, at $1.00 a year.

"When we're all done, Kahauiki Village will be home to over 620 adults and children, or half of the homeless population on Oahu that are in transitional homes today," said Kurisu.

Work on the final phase of this project is already underway. The final 123 units are expected to be complete some time next year.

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