CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
About 30 members of PSI World, a nonprofit leadership group, helped remodel five apartments yesterday at Kamehameha Homes in Kalihi. Volunteers cleaned, made light repairs and painted to help get homeless families off the streets. Volunteers Michael Wedemeyer, left, and Marvin Uehara painted and cleaned out an apartment.
Volunteers take on isle affordable housing crisis
A nonprofit group donates $84,000 in labor to fix up homes for the homeless
THEY WANTED to do something about Hawaii's housing crisis, about its rising homeless population.
They wanted to a make a difference for a family, even if it meant making just a small difference in the big picture.
So about 30 members of PSI World, a nonprofit leadership group in the islands, decided to help the Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii reduce its number of vacant units at public housing complexes.
"We thought, we really want to make a difference -- even if it's just a little difference -- so that families can have homes to live in," said PSI spokeswoman Deborah Lee Baysa, adding that the group asked HCDCH to give preference for the units to homeless families, rather than those already in public housing.
Early yesterday, the PSI volunteers donned their work clothes to remodel five apartments at Kamehameha Homes in Kalihi -- the first installment of their community service project. They painted, replaced windows and faucets, cleaned, spackled and waxed floors.
By midday many were sweat-drenched and sporting paint flecks in their hair.
"We want to get some homeless families off the streets," said PSI Chairwoman Cindy Namahoe as she finished washing a window screen.
As of November the state had 756 vacant units, about half of which needed serious renovations. HCDCH recently pledged to work on a plan to reduce the vacancy rate in public housing complexes. The agency manages 5,363 federally funded public housing units statewide.
The apartments that were renovated yesterday will be ready for new tenants as soon as they are inspected.
Within five months the nonprofit wants to refurbish at least 35 units. Their next work weekend is planned for Jan. 13-15.
In the meantime, the group is looking for more volunteers, Namahoe said, along with corporate sponsorship from hardware stores for materials, which were provided yesterday by HCDCH.
The housing agency estimates that yesterday's renovation work by the nonprofit is worth about $84,000 in labor.
Only one other group, YouthBuild, has helped to renovate public housing units. YouthBuild works with 18- to 21-year-olds, teaching them skills for a career. The nonprofit has been working on units at Mayor Wright Housing.
Richard Speer, a project engineer with HCDCH who was overseeing PSI's work yesterday, said he is grateful for the help from the volunteers, given the agency's limited funding and staffing. "We are asking for help," he added.
For more information on PSI, contact Baysa at 375-4796.