Some two weeks before he is due to be sworn in, Gov.-elect Josh Green said Tuesday that longtime advocate Nani Medeiros will be the state’s new housing chief as his new Cabinet starts to take shape.

The announcement came as two Hawaii nonprofit groups received $7.5 million from a fund set up by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to fight family homelessness.

Medeiros, executive director of HomeAid Hawaii, a nonprofit focusing on homelessness, housing development and community engagement, brings years of experience to the post. She was part of a collaboration involving the state, nonprofits, construction agencies and donors to build 37 tiny homes in West Oahu for people experiencing homelessness.

“We’re starting to move toward lots of individuals in our Cabinet that will focus on housing, homeless, and partnership with the city,” Green said at a news conference. “We want to begin to move down that road.”

Two local nonprofits received $7.5 million in grants to address family homelessness in Hawaii.
Gov.-elect Josh Green, left, spoke at a news conference with Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi to address housing woes and problems with homelessness. Cassie Ordonio/Civil Beat/2022

Medeiros is Green’s first appointment as the lieutenant governor continues to narrow down hundreds of applicants to fill 60 Cabinet-level positions leading the state’s executive agencies and 45 staff positions. So far, 301 people have applied to fill Cabinet positions and 269 have applied for staff positions, according to Green’s spokesperson Julian Juarez.

The housing chief is a newly created position whose responsibility will be to advise the governor on policies for affordable housing and social services, Juarez said.

Green said he hopes his administration can build 10 or more tiny home complexes like Kamaoku Kauhale in Kalaeloa, which was opened in November 2021.

Medeiros previously worked as the policy and public affairs director for Hawaii Primary Care Association and the deputy policy adviser for former-Gov. Linda Lingle. She also served as vice chair on the Hawaii Public Housing Authority’s board of directors and was on the board of directors of the Institute for Human Services.

IHS Executive Director Connie Mitchell said Medeiros’ experience “makes her a great pick for the job.”

“Nani has always been a passionate housing advocate for all,” Mitchell said. “She has served on our board, so she’s well aware of the issues facing homeless individuals but also the struggles families are facing to stay in Hawaii.”

The lack of affordable homes for residents and problems with homelessness are major issues in Hawaii due to a high cost of living and a dearth of housing stock, especially on the most populous island of Oahu.

The money from Bezos’ Day 1 Families Fund went to groups focused on addressing family homelessness in the islands, with $2.5 million going to Family Promise of Hawaii on Oahu and $5 million to Maui service provider Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers. They were among 40 organizations in the U.S. that received grants, which totaled more than $123 million.

“We believe at Family Promise that family homelessness is one of the most urgent social challenges in the state and that every child should have a home,” Ryan Catalani, executive director of Family Promise of Hawaii, said.

Catalani said the funds will help the nonprofit expand its services, provide temporary shelters, assist families with affordable housing and divert families from “ever needing emergency shelters in the first place.”

He also said that half of the grants would go toward acquiring property to create the Ohana Navigation Center, which will provide temporary shelter, case management services and more to families experiencing homelessness.

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