Months after completion, homeless resource center with 27 apartments sits empty

Construction on a $17 million city project to help the homeless wrapped up months ago and there's no definite timeline on when it might open.
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 4:13 PM HST|Updated: May. 24, 2022 at 6:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Construction on a $17 million city project to help the homeless wrapped up months ago, but it’s sitting vacant with no definite timeline on when it might open.

As Hawaii’s homeless crisis continues, 27 brand new low-income apartments and a resource center with an industrial kitchen meant to prepare meals for those in need are all locked away behind a fence at the corner of Sumner Street and Iwilei Road.

Scott Hayashi, the head of Honolulu’s Department of Land Management, says the project took two years to build. Construction wrapped up in February. But when it came time to open, city officials say it and the service provider couldn’t agree on the contract.

“Ultimately the bigger picture didn’t fit for them, the River of Life. And I’m not sure exactly the details,” Hayashi said.

Three months later, the city still hasn’t found a property manager to rent the units. There’s also no service provider to run the resource center.

In fact, officials confirm they haven’t even put out a request for bids.

“That’s a beautiful building and a beautiful resource for a lot of people. We’re wanting to see it used,” said IHS executive director Connie Mitchell.

The head of the state’s largest homeless service provider says there’s a severe shortage of affordable units and that they’re desperate for more inventory.

“We’ve housed this month so far 31 people,” she said.

That’s double the number of folks they were able to house in the same period of time during the pandemic.

“Because of the federal funding that’s come down there are a lot more vouchers that are available,” said Mitchell. “I’m really hoping we can pair these vouchers with some of these units.”

But it’s unclear exactly when that might happen.

Because government allowed the emergency proclamation on homeless to expire last year, there’s no way to expedite the bidding process.

“It’s a lot of rules and procedures in place and you know with government. That’s the way government operates,” said Hayashi.

He added, the hope is to start housing people at the complex this fall and to have the resource center open a little before then.

“It’s a priority for us. Obviously we don’t want the property sitting there vacant,” Hayashi said.

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