State proposes permanent villages of tiny homes for the hardest to house

Updated: Mar. 14, 2019 at 5:26 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Desperate to ease the homeless crisis, state leaders want to set up permanent villages made up of clusters of tiny homes.

The proposal comes two weeks after new data showed the number of homeless people living on the streets of Oahu had jumped 12 percent in the past year.

“This is the permanent housing answer for people who have otherwise refused to go to shelters,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

Tiny homes would create what the state has dubbed Kauhale villages.

Up to 300 people would live at each village. Kitchens and restrooms would be shared along with common areas.

Green says he wants to see up to 10 villages statewide with six on Oahu, two on the Big Island and one each of Maui and Kauai.

Next month, leaders from both the city and the state will meet to pick the parcels of land.

Green said it would like to see the first two Kauhale villages in Waianae and Waimanalo.

“The communities would make their own rules,” said Green. “It will be accepting people whether they come with their dogs or if they are in a relationship or single. There would be some small amount of rent. The threshold is about $250.”

The idea originated among leaders living at one of the state’s largest homeless camps. For the past year, Puuhonua o Waianae has been raising money to build one of their own.

John Kaulupali lives in Kakaako Gateway Park. Last month, he along with members of the community called on government to cease homeless enforcement and work with them to find a place to stay.

On Thursday, he threw his support behind the Kauhale concept.

“That would be a way for the houseless community to regain stability,” said Kaulupali. “They would be able to go to work. And they would be able to come home and know that there is a home still.”

The lieutenant governor says the first village could launch later this year. He hopes to have at least two up and running by 2020.

“The structures don’t take long to put up. It’s actually more of getting the land and choosing it,” said Green. “It has to have enough infrastructure. And it has to be something tha people will actually accept.”

Each village is expected to cost between $2 and $5 million. Green says Housing First money could potentially be used fund part of the project.

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