County expected to grant $7.5 million to 13 nonprofits for housing, homelessness on Big Island

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A committee of the Hawaiʻi County Council on Tuesday gave a favorable recommendation to Resolution 61, which would grant more than $7.5 million to 13 nonprofits for 16 projects addressing housing and homelessness on the Big Island.

This would be the first allocation from a five-year program the Council approved last year and that took effect July 1, 2022. For the program, the County appropriates no less than 75 percent of property tax revenue collected from Tier 2 residential properties, or second luxury homes, with a value of more than $2 million to use for county-sponsored programs addressing the two issues.

A Hope Services outreach worker conducts a survey in Kona with a homeless man called “OG,” which he said is short for “Old Guy,” for the federally-mandated Point in Time Count on Jan. 27, 2023. File photo: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now

The 16 projects that would receive funding:

  • $543,088 for supportive housing and workforce development through Mental Health Kokua.
  • $260,000 for increasing access to care with street medicine through Project Vision Hawaiʻi.
  • $250,865 for recovery housing programs through Bridge House.
  • $90,471 for expansion of Hale ʻOhana through CFS Real Property.
  • $240,000 for construction of a capacity building by Habitat for Humanity Hawaiʻi Island.
  • $614,220 for a Hawaiʻi Island street medicine program through the Hawaiʻi Island Community Health Center.
  • $285,000 for a transitional housing program through The Salvation Army.
  • $808,732 for affordable housing through Hawaiʻi Community Lending.
  • $1,093,526 for scaling housing solutions and support services in West Hawaiʻi through Hope Services Hawaiʻi.
  • $1,234,971 for scaling housing interventions with behavioral health supports in East Hawaiʻi through Hope Services Hawaiʻi.
  • $529,729 for re-entry and recovery housing through Going Home Hawaiʻi.
  • $168,000 for substance abuse and mental health treatment for homeless and at-risk individuals through Lokahi Treatment Centers.
  • $427,522 for a ʻohana homelessness prevention and support program through Neighborhood Place of Puna.
  • $374,384 for homeless services, including a nurse, through Hawaiʻi Island Home for Recovery.
  • $406,184 for a coordination center through Neighborhood Place of Puna.
  • $156,834 for The Pathway to Excellence in Practice program through Neighborhood Place of Puna.

The Hawaiʻi County Office of Housing and Community Development received 31 responses from 21 organizations from around the island to its request for proposals as part of the program. The proposed projects totaled more than $25 million.


Each project was ranked and rated by a five-person committee consisting of officials from the housing agency, a representative from Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth’s office and a member from the Hawaiʻi County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney.

The top 16 projects were selected, and only three would receive somewhat less than what they requested. With only $7.5 million to award, eight organizations were turned down. One didn’t meet all of the criteria set forth in the County’s request for proposals.

Housing Director Susan Kunz spoke personally with each of the organizations not selected for this round of funding and encouraged them to sit down with her office to discuss why and how the proposals were ranked so they can be more competitive in the four future rounds of funding.


Council members had several questions, including about how the selected organizations will be kept accountable for the funding they would be awarded and who and how many people the proposed projects would serve.

Each of the projects will be under a 12-month performance period and will be responsible to show how they met the goals outlined in their requests. Council members also want to see the budget sheets to see what costs are being incurred by the housing office for administering the program.

The resolution received a favorable recommendation from the Committee on Legislative Approvals and Acquistions, but it wasn’t unanimous. It will next go before the Council at a regular meeting.


Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas and many of her constituents are disappointed in how the program’s funds would be allocated as part of a strategic roadmap the housing office laid out. It is a roadmap that didn’t impress Council members.

She also was not onboard with the higher ratio of projects that seemingly focused on building housing instead of services for the houseless and that only one organization — Hope Services Hawaiʻi — would receive 30.7 percent of the funding.

“This is so much money, so much money,” Villegas said, adding she’s not naive enough to think that any amount of money could completely solve the homelessness issue. “But I don’t feel this is an equitable distribution or [that] it will be successful, unfortunately. I think we’re throwing good money after bad.”

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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