After sitting empty over a year, portion of city’s Homeless Resource Center set to open

Major developments are underway in regards to the future of a mismanaged homeless housing project that’s been sitting empty in Iwilei more than a year.
Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 5:30 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 17, 2023 at 6:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Major developments are underway in regards to the future of a mismanaged homeless housing project that’s been sitting empty in Iwilei more than a year.

HNN Investigates confirmed the first floor of the city’s Homeless Resource Center will soon provide around-the-clock, in-patient medical services for homeless who need care but aren’t sick enough to stay at the hospital.

The city says the goal is to open next month.

“Our plan is to probably put three rows of eight beds. So at least 24 beds in here,” said Department of Emergency Services director Jim Ireland. “They’ll all have privacy screens.”

He says it’s a place for homeless people to heal once they’re discharged from the hospital.

“Patients who may have amputations, have significant wounds, mental health issues,” Ireland said. “People who are just not well enough to go into a community environment in a shelter or to live on their own.”

This project marks the first time the brand new $17 million facility will have an opportunity to begin fulfilling its intended purpose.

The city broke ground on the project back in early 2020. Although construction wrapped up more than a year ago, the shelter space, along with a world-class kitchen and 27 low-income apartments have sat empty despite tremendous need.

The reason: Officials say it comes down to red tape and poor planning that goes back to decisions that were made under the previous mayor, Kirk Caldwell.

Here’s how the city’s Director of Community Services explained it during an interview earlier this year.

“The problem we have is what I call the color of money. What that means is there are different types of money that were used to construct that building. And those types of money have rules to them? And in particular the bond money,” said Anton Krucky.

He says the rules associated with those bonds require a portion of the building to be affordable housing. That means the city needs to find an entity to manage the units.

But so far, negotiations with more than a half dozen potential partners have all fallen through.

Now, instead of waiting until housing management is in place, the city decided to change course and will open in phases.

When asked what prompted this shift in direction for this facility Ireland responded, “Well, I think there was some frustration on a lot of people’s part that it wasn’t open yet. I think we just decided rather than you know keep trying to make a non-profit fit in this building, we’re just going to do it as a city agency. Get it open. Get it done.”

Ireland says the medical respite will be staffed by Honolulu’s Crisis Outreach Response and Engagement Program also known as CORE.

Staff member Gerico DeMesillo said in addition to getting people treatment they need, “It’s a place where individuals can be safe. And for us to work with them into getting permanent housing.”

Meanwhile, the search continues for a partner to manage the apartments upstairs.

This will be where somebody lives,” Ireland said showing us around the unit. " And you don’t have to look far to see that there’s plenty of people who need help.”

Ireland says the medical respite is being funded through post COVID federal relief funds. He says right now there’s enough money for the next two years.