Project to open new homeless shelter in Kakaako hits big snag

Project to open new homeless shelter in Kakaako hits big snag
Published: Jun. 10, 2016 at 8:37 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 10, 2016 at 10:17 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

KAKAAKO (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new shelter in Kakaako that was supposed to be finished in February still needs significant work before it can open its doors.

The shelter was to be housed in a maintenance shed near Kakaako Waterfront Park, and was touted as central to the governor's plan to address homelessness in Kakaako.

In December, Hawaii News Now got video of crews hard at work making repairs to the building.

But on Friday, little new work appeared to have been done to the building.

State officials say that's because contractors discovered a sewer problem in the shed.

When the project started, the Ige administration put the cost of renovating the shed at $750,000. Now, four months after renovations were to be completed, it's unclear when the shelter will be finished -- and how much the project will cost.

State Rep. Tom Brower, whose district includes Kakaako, said the delay is disappointing.

"There's less shelter space because this project couldn't get off the ground," he said.

Scott Morishige, the governor's homeless czar, said repairs to the sewer were wrapped up Thursday.

Inside the 5,000-square-foot shed, little additional work has been completed. Also, plans for the layout of the project were only recently finalized.

Amid the project delays, some are also asking whether the shelter plan still makes sense.

When the state pitched the plan for the shelter, its purpose was to temporarily house families, many of whom were living in nearby parks. But over the last six months, the homeless population in Kakaako has changed dramatically.

"If you look back a year ago, there were over 300 people in the Kakaako Maikai area," Morishige said. Now, he said, there are about 50 to 60 people.

Brower said the homeless in Kakaako today are also more likely to be single people, rather than families.

"Let's assess this specific part of Kakaako," Brower said. "See if the plan still works. If it does let's move forward. If the plan doesn't work, let's adjust it."

Officials say once the shelter is complete, it will only be in operation for two years.

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