Perseverance prevails as construction on tiny home village for homeless resumes

Updated: Nov. 25, 2020 at 3:31 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - What started as a rickety building in the middle of an overgrown lot is almost unrecognizable today as a master-planned community of tiny homes is beginning to take shape in Kalaeloa.

Soon it will serve as the foundation for people on a path toward rebuilding their lives.

It’s been a long haul to get to this point. Ground was officially broken last Thanksgiving. But shortly after utility work started, COVID-19 brought work to a halt. Building resumed two weeks ago.

“There have been a lot of tears shed over this project by a lot of people,” said Nani Medeiros, executive director of Home Aid Hawaii.

To say things didn’t go the way Medeiros planned would be an understatement. She is in the business of building on a budget ―and fast.

“When the pandemic hit, like so many other people and companies this year, we’ve had huge challenges keeping the project alive. Keeping it going,” Medeiros said.

But perseverance paid off and volunteer contractors have resumed helping the state build its first kauhale village on Shangrila Street.

Project captain Jake Johnson provided visitors with a tour of the site Wednesday.

“This is our prototype,” he said, showing what the finished home would look like. “An 8-by-12 floor plan. Great light, great ventilation. And the roofs are actually 9 feet tall.”

Medeiros said, “This kauhale will provide 36 homes for veterans and non-veterans experiencing homelessness on Oahu. It will be operated and managed by US Vets.”

The total cost for the village is about $3 million but taxpayers are only footing about half that.

The rest is covered by donations. Despite economic uncertainty triggered by the pandemic not one contributor backed out.

It’s a communal living concept Lt. Gov. Josh Green wants carried out on every island.

Residents will share utilities while rent is based on income and is expected to average between $200 and $400 a month.

Green said, “You do this 10 times over you start solving the problem of homelessness in our society.”

Some call it an affordable alternative to homeless sweeps.

“This would be way less. And you give them back their dignity, their lives,” said state Sen. Kurt Fevella.

One thing that still hasn’t been settled on is a name. That’s expected to be announced in late February when the project is complete.

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