Hawaii County Celebrates New Micro Units to Address Chronically Homeless

Representatives from social service agencies joined Mayor Billy Kenoi and Council Chair Dru Mamo Kanuha today for a ceremony to dedicate Hale Kīkaha, the County of Hawaiʻi’s newest housing project with 23 micro units to address a critical need in Kailua-Kona, particularly amongst the chronically homeless.

micro-unitsNumbers of homeless are increasing statewide. The January 2016 point-in-time count showed nearly 1,400 homeless people on Hawaiʻi Island, an increase of 10% from 2015. Of those people, about 500 were unsheltered in West Hawaiʻi.

“Our families who are homeless need a sense that they have a chance. They can believe that because they can sleep in a clean, safe place,” Mayor Kenoi said. “We’re creating a puʻuhonua, a safe haven, a place of refuge where people can walk around with dignity and respect.”

The $2.5 million Hale Kīkaha is on Pāwai Place in Kailua-Kona’s industrial area, adjacent to the area’s emergency homeless shelter. Hale Kīkaha will provide on-site wraparound social services to residents to increase their chances of success.

Kīkaha means to soar, and the name Hale Kīkaha represents the County’s hope for and commitment to the residents that will call the project home. Design and engineering work was done in-house. General contractor Kona-Kaʻū Construction and a number of sub-contractors completed the project in nine months.

The County recognizes that housing is a primary need, especially in West Hawaiʻi. The County has worked to address homelessness through the nationally recognized best practice Housing First model with a number of projects during Mayor Kenoi’s administration.

West Hawaii Emergency Shelter

West Hawaii Emergency Shelter

Recognizing the most immediate need, the County constructed the $1.8 million, 31-bed West Hawaiʻi Emergency Shelter and opened it in November 2010.

The Homes of Ulu Wini provides 96 units for families, a mix of transitional housing and affordable rentals for families with low-moderate income, or no higher than 80% of the area median income. Construction of the $23.7 million project’s phases were completed throughout Mayor Kenoi’s administration.

The Homes at Ulu Wini.

The Homes at Ulu Wini.

Kamakoa Nui offers affordable home ownership to working families along the Kohala Coast. The Kenoi administration restarted a previous attempt to build workforce housing in Waikoloa Village, and the first families were welcomed into their homes in 2013. To date, all 91 lots at Kamakoa Nui have been sold and 69 homes have been built. Construction continues on the remaining homes, which include six participants in a self-help housing program by Habitat for Humanity. Kamakoa Nui offers fee-simple home ownership to families between 100-140% of the area median income.

A home at Kamakoa Nui.

A home at Kamakoa Nui

In addition to County-built housing, the Office of Housing & Community Development administers programs to assist tenants renting existing housing. Over 2,000 people and families receive over $14 million in assistance every year through Tenant-Based Rental Assistance and the Housing Choice Voucher programs.

“We are measured not by what we do for those who have the most, we are measured by what we do for those who have the least,” Mayor Kenoi said.

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