Amid pandemic, 17 homeless people move into state’s first Kauhale village

Updated: Mar. 31, 2020 at 5:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many times, the community’s reply to plans for a property for the homeless is “not in my backyard.”

In Waimanalo, though, one woman reversed the phrase. She decided to welcome those who had been turned away from other places.

The state’s first Kauhale is made up of 11 tiny houses. The communal village was paid for entirely through donations. But what’s even more incredible is where it’s built.

“This is actually our backyard,” said Blanche McMillan.

It’s farmland she leases from the state.

For the past year, McMillan worked with government to get the project off the ground. Now it’s finally come together. “Because of the coronavirus I said, ‘No more. This is enough. We need to bring our people here right now,'" she said.

All 17 people who live in the village used to live across the street at Waimanalo Beach Park. Each one of them had a hand in clearing the land and building their own hale.

“It’s a wonderful feeling,” said one of the village’s new residents, Pamela Rundgren. “I have a door and windows. A floor I can keep clean.”

Sometimes little things aren’t little at all.

Rundgren’s new home is a 100 square feet. To most people that might not sound like much, but for her that space changes everything.

“Now I have a home,” she said.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green is spearheading a project to build a total of 10 kauhale villages across the state. A second one is currently in the works in Kalaeloa.

“We can’t afford not to act. It’s a moral imperative that we do,” Green said.

Residents pay between $200 and $300 a month in rent.

In Waimanalo they will have the opportunity to work on the community’s farm. “This is the way you save lives,” Green said. “This is the way you bring people together.”

People like 7-year-old Luke. For the first time in his life he’s got a real roof over his head and isn’t living in a car.

For his neighbor, it’s a second chance she wasn’t sure she’d get.

“I work hard,” Rundgren said. “Now the focus is to keep going.”

Donations of food, supplies and housewares are needed. They can be dropped off at the village on 41-902 Oluolu Street.

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