Thanks to $2.5 million in Ohana Zone funds from the state, the site of the old Hilo Memorial Hospital will serve people again.

The Office of the Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness issued a press release Tuesday saying that the Keolahou shelter and assessment center had a “soft” opening on Monday. A formal opening and blessing is scheduled for Nov. 8.

“When the facility is fully operational, it will offer emergency shelter beds, case management and other resources, with the goal of improving access to needed services for those experiencing homelessness,” according to the press release.

The Old Hilo Memorial Hospital now expects new tenants.

HOPE Services Hawaii

It’s a collaboration between the state, Hawaii County, service provider HOPE Services Hawaii and other community partners.

There are 25 emergency shelter beds available in the initial phase. At full operation, the shelter will provide 50 emergency shelter beds for single men.

In 2018 the Hawaii Legislature appropriated $30 million to establish at least three Ohana Zone sites on Oahu, and one each on Hawaii island, Maui and Kauai. “Ohana” is Hawaiian for family

A spokesman for the Office of the Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness said all the Ohana Zone money has been allocated.

The projects in operation are Keolahou on the Big Island, a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion pilot program on Maui, the Villages of Maili Assessment Center on Oahu and the RYSE Youth Access Center and Outreach Services on Oahu.

The law requires that the zones be placed on state and county land “and that those spaces provide services to assist homeless individuals and families to access permanent housing. Also, the state has prioritized sites that have existing facilities and infrastructure in place that can be paired with funding to address the needs of chronically homeless individuals and families.”

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said the program “will hopefully be duplicated in Kona, pending environmental review.”

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