City taps River of Life Mission to run part of new homeless resource center

Updated: Dec. 30, 2020 at 9:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu’s mayor said Wednesday that the River of Life Mission will operate a new resource center for the homeless in Iwilei.

Residents and businesses in Chinatown, where the mission is currently located, are hoping that it will mean that a large homeless population in their area will move on.

Merchants have said that River of Life has good intentions, giving free meals to the homeless from its Chinatown location for decades.

“Their mission is good,” said Chu Lan Schubert-Kwock of the Chinatown Business and Community Association. “They just want to feed people, but they’re unable to manage them, and so then the problem gets to the community and the neighbors and it just kills business.”

The new facility will include a 27-unit studio rental complex, along with more space to feed the homeless.

“What we’ve done here is created a new resource center with a dining room and a kitchen with a support space in back,” said Jim Stone of G70 Architecture, which designed the building.

“Once this is complete, and once the contract with River of Life is signed, they will be operating their operations not in Chinatown, but here,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

“Yeah, we would love to have it happen, but we’re not having the parade yet,” said Fran Butera of the group Chinatown Watch. “We need to see that it’s really going to happen and it’s not just words.”

Butera is among Chinatown residents who’ve heard that River of Life would be moving in the past, and therefore remain skeptical that it will happen.

River of Life has said it is being unfairly blamed for problems in Chinatown, where residents say more homeless people have taken over because of desperation from the pandemic, and more businesses are closing their doors.

“It will be better for everyone,” said Butera. “It will be better for the business community, it will be better for the homeless themselves because there’s nothing for them in Chinatown.”

“It will be a great relief and a return to normalcy, if that normal is meaning business and people are not afraid to come to Chinatown,” said Schubert-Kwock.

The new $17 million facility is scheduled for completion in May 2021.

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