Big Island Builds 32 Emergency Shelters in NAS Pool Parking Lot

April 18, 2020, 1:28 PM HST (Updated April 18, 2020, 1:28 PM)
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Hawaii County began construction of 32 emergency shelters in Hilo on Saturday, April 18, 2020. PC: Hawaii County

A new emergency shelter program kicked off with construction of 32 shelters on Saturday at the County’s NAS Pool parking lot.

More than 50 volunteers, including members of the County Fire Department Recruit Class, pitched in to build the shelters, with guidance from HPM Building Supply, a county press release said.

The temporary shelters, measuring 10 x 8 feet each, will be ready for occupancy early next week and will accommodate the most vulnerable homeless individuals that are frail, elderly or have pre-existing conditions. Each unit can house up to two people. About 40 eligible individuals have been identified to stay in the units.

“It’s great to have the Fire Department, Public Works and HPM come together for this community project,” said Mayor Harry Kim. “They’re doing this in a wonderful spirit of community, and it’s really special.”

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The Hale Hanakahi Emergency Shelter facility is being built with unencumbered ‘Ohana Zone funding approved by the State of Hawai‘i and will pay for the shelters and operation costs of an estimated $200,000.

HOPE Services Hawai‘i and the Neighborhood Place of Puna are working in partnership to deliver 24/7 shelter monitoring services, delivery of “grab & go” meals, laundry services, and the coordination with on-site mental and behavioral health services, the release said.

They will also provide case management to connect program participants to appropriate permanent housing. Other nonprofits working coming together to get vulnerable homeless people off the streets include Bay Clinic and the Boys & Girls Club.

“We are grateful for the County’s leadership in making this happen,” said Hope Services Hawai‘i Chief Executive Officer Brandee Menino.

Sharon Hirota, the Mayor’s Executive Assistant in charge of homelessness issues, thanked the County Department of Parks and Recreation for making the site available for this project. Project participants will have access to the restrooms and showers at the NAS Pool, which is currently closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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