Old UH dormitory to become apartments for Maui’s homeless families

Published: May. 21, 2019 at 7:29 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After sitting empty for more than a decade, an old University of Hawaii dormitory in Kahului will soon serve a new purpose.

“We want to build a home that someone can actually afford,” said Maui County Councilwoman Tasha Kama.

Kama, along with Mayor Mike Victorino, recently invited Lt. Gov. Josh Green to take a look at the property so they could explain how they plan to spend the $5 million they’re getting from the state to construct a so-called “ohana zone" for the homeless.

Their vision: Affordable apartments with onsite services to help keep residents from falling back into homelessness.

There are a total of 12, two-bedroom units. The plan is to refurbish each of them to provide housing for working families.

“The footprint would be very, very similar,” said Victorino.

But making the buildings livable is going to take a lot of work. Right now, no one knows exactly what repairs will need to be made.

The first step is to have engineers come in and do an assessment.

Council members are motivated to do it quickly.

“I’ve met many homeless people who tell me they like living out there. They don’t want to move,” said Kama. “Families are the mainstay of our community and if we keep children out in the elements for too long people become so accustomed to living out there.”

Victorino says down the road, there is room on the property to expand.

The goal is to have the first families move into their new homes in under two years.

“Get the families off the beaches. Get families living in their cars into something decent,” said Victorino.

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