Homeless shelter reopens following COVID-19 outbreak, but with fewer beds

Quarantine site converted back to homeless shelter in Iwilei, but with half the beds

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - One of Oahu’s largest homeless shelters is back open after a COVID-19 outbreak prompted health officials to shut it down last month and use it as a quarantine facility.

But getting a bed at the Institute for Human Services men’s shelter likely won’t be as easy as it used to be.

That’s because capacity has been cut in half.

“Today we’ve officially opened our doors to men who want shelter at Sumner Street,” said IHS Executive Director Connie Mitchell.

For the first time in a little over a month, operations resumed Monday morning and people in need of food and a place to stay were being allowed in off the street.

On August 12, a COVID-19 outbreak prompted the state to shutter the shelter, allowing guests who had been exposed or infected with the virus a place to isolate.

Altogether, 56 residents and six staff tested positive. A 37-year-old frontline worker died.

Prior to reopening, the shelter went through extensive cleaning. The number of beds was also reduced from 132 to 68 to ensure everyone’s properly distanced.

“We removed the top bunks of the beds. Now they’re just one level of beds,” said Mitchell.

Now the city’s working with the shelter to provide any overflow guests with a tent at the Provisional Outdoor Shelter and Triage Facility at Keehi Lagoon.

“It’s something that’s available to anyone who requires assistance,” said Marc Alexander, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing. He says right now there are close to 80 tents available.

The city says it also launched a new CARES line (832-3100) to connect people with other shelters that may have openings.

“We will provide the transportation for them to get to whatever facility that’s best for them,” said Alexander.

Mitchell says all guests at the men’s shelter on Sumner Street, the women’s Kaaahi Street shelter and residents at Hale Mauliola will undergo COVID-19 testing once a week.

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