Men’s Shelter to Open in Hilo

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Mayor Harry Kim tours Keolahou Shelter in Hilo, which officially opens on Nov. 8. (PC: Mayor Harry Kim’s Facebook page)

A homeless shelter for men in Hilo is scheduled to formally open next month.

The old Hilo Memorial Hospital, located on Rainbow Drive, will serve as the Keolahou Shelter and Assessment Center, initially providing 25 emergency beds. The building is scheduled for a formal opening and blessing on Nov. 8.

When the facility is fully operational, it will offer emergency shelter beds, as well as case management and other resources, with the goal of improving access to needed services for those experiencing homelessness. It is a collaboration between the state, the county, service provider HOPE Services Hawaiʻi and other community partners.

The $2.5 million shelter was funded by ʻOhana Zone funds from the state.


Mayor Harry Kim toured the facility on Oct. 7. He said he is proud of all the workers involved in the project.

“I was more than just elated, I was proud that people came together to make this happen,” Kim said.

The initial opening will have 25 beds available. At full operation, the shelter will provide 50 emergency shelter beds for single men. The assessment center will allow individuals to connect with a case manager and other services. Individuals will be able to stay for up to 90 days.

In 2018, state legislators appropriated $30 million to establish at least three ʻOhana Zone sites on Oʻahu, and one each on Hawaiʻi Island, Maui and Kauaʻi.


“Each person experiencing homelessness has specific needs, and this center is providing individual assistance to those who seek help,” said Gov. David Ige. “Partnerships like this one allow us to improve the health and well-being of our community’s most vulnerable members.”

Mayor Harry Kim tours Keolahou Shelter in Hilo, which officially opens on Nov. 8. (PC: Mayor Harry Kim’s Facebook page)

The law requires that ʻOhana 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.

“We’re very grateful for the assistance of the state government, whose ‘Ohana Zone funding is making Keolahou a reality,” Kim said.

The mayor added that he was proud and grateful to everybody who have worked so hard to make this comprehensive program a reality, with involvement from the faith community, nonprofits, county departments and the private sector.


“I gave them dream and they made a reality,” he said.

Kim is hopeful that the county will be able to duplicate the program in Kona, pending an environmental review of the land proposed for the facility.

“Both the Hilo and proposed Kona facilities would provide an assessment center to bring the homeless off the streets, an emergency shelter, permanent supportive housing and support services. We are truly grateful to all of our partners,” Kim said.

HOPE Services Hawaiʻi is working with community partners such the Hawaiʻi County Economic Opportunity Council, Project Vision, Bay Clinic, Hawaiʻi Island HIV/AIDS Foundation, the Food Basket Inc., Arc of Hilo, Hawaiian Community Assets, and Legal Aid Society of Hawaiʻi.

“We are honored to be working with visionary community partners, who will offer life-changing services for the men staying at Keolahou,” said Brandee Menino, chief executive officer of HOPE Services Hawaiʻi. “We are also grateful to the state and County of Hawaiʻi, particularly Sharon Hirota of the mayor’s office, for paving the way for the first ʻOhana Zone on Hawaiʻi Island to become a reality.”

Other projects addressing homelessness are also in the pipeline for Hawaiʻi County. An assessment center at the Na Kahua Hale o Ulu Wini housing complex is expected to open by the end of the year, and the Village 9 affordable housing project and 20 units of permanent supportive housing at Keolahou are scheduled to welcome residents in spring 2020.

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