New Waianae Shelter Signals A New Beginning For Homeless Families

Sandra Lee
Sandra Lee
Governor Linda Lingle
Governor Linda Lingle

WAIANAE COAST (KHNL) - The state's fourth homeless shelter in less than a year officially opened on Thursday. It's part of an aggressive campaign by Governor Linda Lingle to address Hawaii's homeless problem.

John and Sandra Lee lived on the beach for two years. Now, they live at the newly opened Paiolu Kaiaulu Emergency Transitional Shelter.

"When we got here, we said this isn't for us," said Sandra Lee, who lives at the shelter with her husband and two-year-old daughter Aaliyah. "But when you give this place a chance, eventually you realize it's for anybody."

But some are skeptical.

"We got bad feedback from the one at Barber's Point," said Mildred, a homeless resident at Maili Point. "That one was like a prison."

The Lee's moved to Paiolu Kaiaulu two weeks ago, and it's made all the difference.

"We have a future we can look now because they're helping us structure our life," said Lee.

Shelter employees do this by teaching them job skills and even parenting skills.

"But here everyday you do what you're supposed to do, it's getting closer and closer to you moving out on your own," said Lee.

And the plan is working. At Thursday's dedication ceremony, Governor Linda Lingle highlighted success stories from other Oahu shelters.

"Since October, 75 residents at Onelauena Transitional Shelter are now in permanent housing situation," said Governor Lingle.

The Lee family hopes to follow that example.

"If we both work at it, you know we'll get out of here," said Lee. "And I believe, once we get out of here, we'll survive on our own."

Survive, and become role models for others.

"Yeah, I'd like to go, because the weather's been ...This is our third tent already within the past six months," said Mildred.

More than 60 have moved in so far, and the shelter can house about 300 people. Governor Lingle hopes to add $128 million to fight homelessness, including an additional $50 million towards building more affordable rental housing.