Gov. David Ige’s leadership team is considering a plan to convert a maintenance shed owned by the semi-independent Hawaii Community Development Authority into a transitional shelter for homeless families.

State Sen. Jill Tokuda said Monday that team members visited the shed behind the University of Hawaii medical school in Kakaako earlier in the day and estimated that up to 40 people could be housed there.

“It is very rough, no doubt, but it’s a structure that, if we are able to quickly start to work on the inside … it could quickly be turned into a usable shelter space — potentially for families,” Tokuda told reporters following the fourth weekly meeting of Ige’s team.

Rep. Sylvia Luke holds HCDA maintenance shed photograph with left, Sen Jill Tokuda during press conference on homeless at the Governor's office. 17 aug 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

State Sen. Jill Tokuda, left, and state Rep. Sylvia Luke display a picture of the maintenance shed that Gov. David Ige’s leadership team is considering turning into a transitional homeless shelter.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Ige said the shed, which has the basic infrastructure and plumbing needed for a shower and bathroom, is promising but offered no timeline or cost estimates for converting it. The shed is among “roughly three to five” state-owned facilities and parcels that his team is considering for temporarily housing homeless people.

Ige added that he’s placing a priority on meeting the needs of homeless families, given that there’s “virtually zero space in (existing) shelters for families — it’s all taken up.”

A survey conducted by Partners in Care, a coalition of 30 homeless service providers on Oahu, found that 31 families — 124 people in all — were among the nearly 300 people living at the homeless encampment in Kakaako during the week of Aug. 3.

Greg Payton, chair of Partners in Care, said more than three-fourths of the survey respondents were willing to go to shelters, but nearly 36 percent lacked the documents necessary for housing applications.

The survey also found that the majority of homeless people at the Kakaako encampment are Native Hawaiians and Polynesians, and roughly a third are migrants who are in the U.S. under the Compact of Free Association.

“We want to make sure that this is not going to be just an exercise in coming up with ideas — it’s about implementing them.” — Sen. Jill Tokuda

The average monthly income — mostly through the state’s General Assistance or the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — was $320 for single adults and $587 for families.

“This is not enough money to sustain someone or a household in Hawaii,” Payton said. “That’s part of the reason for their homeless situation.”

Tokuda told Civil Beat last week that, once Ige’s team settles on its plan of action, it could have up to $5 million in emergency funds that could be drawn from the state’s existing budget — likely from line items earmarked for homelessness programs under the Hawaii Department of Human Services.


This is what the container housing will look like at the Sand Island homeless facility

Courtesy of architect Fritz Johnson

“One of the things that we’ve been doing is making sure that we’ll be able to access the funds immediately,” Tokuda told Civil Beat. “We don’t want a lack of resources to be the barrier to getting something accomplished now. Obviously, if we ever find a solution, we’d want to act on it quickly. We want to make sure that this is not going to be just an exercise in coming up with ideas — it’s about implementing them.”

When the new session begins in January, Ige will have to request the emergency appropriation at the Legislature to account for the amount his team spends, Tokuda said.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell, meanwhile, told reporters that the city awarded a $520,000 contract on Friday to Container Storage of Hawaii Ltd. to construct a transitional housing facility on Sand Island.

Caldwell said the facility, dubbed Hale Mauliola, will house up to 39 individuals and 24 couples using 25 “modified shipping containers” — the first nine of which will arrive in October — and be operational by Christmas.

“We’re really excited about this,” Caldwell said. “And we look at it not as the end but the beginning. This is a prototype. If it works, we’d love to do it at another property … because it’s not really expensive, and it’s quicker than having to build your own building.”

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