Donations will fund new neighborhood for low-income kupuna in Pahoa

Updated: Apr. 4, 2019 at 11:20 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Preparations are underway to break ground on a new neighborhood for low-income kupuna on Hawaii Island.

It’ll be built behind Sacred Heart Church in Pahoa on the same property as 20 tiny homes that volunteers built last summer for lava evacuees.

Like the micro-units, this new community is being funded solely by donations ― without any money from government.

Hawaii Island homeless service provider Hope Services recently teamed-up with a local contractor on the project.

So far, the land has been cleared and the plans are drawn up. Building is scheduled to begin this fall.

“This time we want to do housing,” said Menino. “Not just temporary shelters but really end homelessness.”

The plan is to start with 12 homes. Each one will be a little under 600 square feet.

“They are efficiency units, which means a room. They also have their own bathroom, shower and kitchen,” said Menino.

Hawaii County officials say last year’s eruption created new demand for senior housing in Pahoa.

“Of the more than 600 households displaced, 30 percent were kupuna,” said Kimo Alameda, of the Hawaii County Executive on Aging.

A year later, some of those evacuees are still in shelters.

"I’m alone and I’m older and I don’t have family support,” said resident Julie Larson, who was forced to leave her Leilani Estates home last May.

After living in an evacuation shelter, she thought she found a place in Kalapana. But she says not long after she moved in, the landlord decided he wanted to live there.

So the 61-year-old ended up back in temporary housing.

"It's really difficult to find a place,” Larson said.

Hope Services is collecting donations for the senior housing project. Click here to give.

The first 12 homes are expected to be completed by the spring of 2020.

Menino says the need for more permanent housing across Hawaii Island is extremely high.

Hope Services Hawaii is urging lawmakers to support bills that would allow Ohana Zone funding to be used on private land. Right now that money can only be put towards projects on land owned by the county or state.

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