Homeless Shelter Celebrates One Year Anniversary

Betty Thomas
Betty Thomas

WAIANAE (KHNL) --  It's been one year since Governor Linda Lingle (R-Hawaii) spearheaded an effort to open a homeless transitional shelter on the leeward coast.  She faced some opposition, even from some of the people she was trying to help.

But many who use it consider the Paiolu Kaiaulu homeless shelter a success.

It has helped more than 650 people who were living on beaches and parks.  Many have moved on to permanent housing, and they say, the program works.

A celebration to mark the one year anniversary of a landmark homeless shelter on the Waianae coast.

Lieutenant Governor James "Duke" Aiona (R-Hawaii) said this comes from the state's commitment to help the people of Hawaii.

"And the spirit of aloha is about being one," he said. "It's about how we coordinate our hearts and minds to live together in peace and harmony. It's about the art of giving and receiving."

People who call this place home say this is a nice change of pace from living on the beach.

"I can honestly say the staff; everybody here has compassion," said Betty Thomas, a resident.  "They have a lot of aloha."

The shelter not only provides housing; it also gives people tools to rejoin the work force.

"They opened this place.  They brought everybody off the beach," said Louis Haili, another resident at the shelter. "People on the outside think everybody in here are drug dealers and users and stuff like that. We're getting treatment here. The treatment works. It worked for me."

"I can tell you right now, I went through a drug program, not once but twice within the last year and the program works," said Thomas.

They say this shelter gives them a second chance at life, and hope this could help others.

"You see people living in cars," said Thomas. "You see people living in beaches. You see people living down in the bushes and you got the hidden homeless."

They say skeptics should check it out.

"Plenty people say this place doesn't help people out," said Haili. "People outside saying this place is no good.  They got a give it a chance in here."

A chance at a new life and a new beginning.

"The four months you go through it, it helps you find a job, and it's good, you know," said Haili.  "Nobody can say nobody in here not trying, because to me, everybody's trying."

Trying to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

The shelter serves about 300 people right now. More than 200 have moved on to permanent housing.