This homeless shelter for families has the money to reopen and the need. So why hasn’t it yet?

One year after the lease expired at one of Oahu’s only homeless shelters for families, government agencies still haven’t found a new site to reopen.
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 4:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One year after the lease expired at one of Oahu’s only homeless shelters for families, government agencies still haven’t found a new site to reopen ― even though officials confirm the money is there.

The Family Assessment Center was one of the only programs on the island that took in entire families.

But today, the center that used to help homeless children and their parents escape the streets sits empty.

The Family Assessment Center used to sit on city property ― housed in a refurbished maintenance shed.

It was never intended to be a permanent solution, but served a critical purpose the five years it was open.

A year ago, the center was forced to move out of the building after Gov. David Ige’s last emergency homeless proclamation expired and it was no loger legal for people to live there.

Despite $750,000 in funding, the state says it still hasn’t found another site to reopen.

Meanwhile, the need for more shelter space is apparent across Oahu. In town, tents teeter on roadsides. People live in their cars and camp under bridges.

“Hard times. It’s pretty sad,” said Honolulu resident Todd Sako.

The state Department of Human Services wouldn’t explain why it’s taking so long to find a permanent place for the shelter and turned down HNN’s request for an interview.

In a statement the agency said:

“DHS continues to seek a permanent location for the Family Assessment Center. We are unable to provide specific details as discussions with the C&C of Honolulu are still ongoing.”

The city offered a similar response.

Those answers aren’t sitting well with the community.

“It’s not acceptable cause they have the funds,” said Clayton Kekumu.

“They got the money but they don’t have qualified workers out there helping the people that need help.”

Kekumu added, “The homeless population is bigger than the state thinks. They got to get out there and get the numbers.”

Homeless service providers alongside volunteers hit the street a few weeks ago to do just that.

But it’ll be months before those numbers are released.

During last year’s effort, some 2,355 people were counted on the streets of Oahu. That number was up slightly from 2020.

The report also revealed contact was made with 39 unsheltered families, who totaled close to 150 people.

Anton Krucky, city Department of Community Services director, said in an interview last month there’s a dire need for more beds.

“One of the challenges is last year, we lost shelter space,” Krucky said.

Along with the Family Assessment Center, the state’s Next Step homeless shelter has closed. In addition, other facilities in the urban core and elsewhere have had to reduce their capacity because of COVID.

“Like 300 beds were lost,” said Krucky. “We need to get some of those beds back. And even expand our beds.”

It’s relief that can’t come soon enough.

Last month, Green signed a new emergency proclamation on homelessness.

It’s unclear if that will have an impact in the search for a new site.

DHS said Catholic Charities, the provider for the Family Assessment Center, continues to offer ongoing follow-up and related services for homeless families with minor children.