Work to start on first Kauai homeless shelter
The facility will assist up to 39 people after it opens in spring '07
LIHUE » Kauai's 600 homeless people have always fended for themselves against the elements because they've never had any place to seek refuge.
That will soon change, when Kauai's first homeless shelter opens. It will provide temporary assistance to 39 people at a time.
"I got a classmate living out here. I got a guy I knew from when I was growing up living out here," said Mayor Bryan Baptiste.
About 50 people attended the blessing and dedication of the shelter Friday. They huddled under umbrellas and tents to get protection from a hard, chilly rain.
"That is what homeless people deal with, without the umbrellas, without the tents, and all day, all night long," said MaBel Fujiuchi, the chief executive officer of Kauai Economic Opportunity, Inc.
The shelter has been planned for more than two years, but lacked the money needed to become a reality.
But now, federal, state and county government officials have allotted more than $2 million to help get the shelter built next to the offices of Kauai Economic Opportunity. The shelter is expected to open in spring 2007, said Gary Mackler, a housing specialist for the Kauai county.
Although the shelter can't come close to accommodating all of the island's homeless population, it is an important first step toward helping them, Fujiuchi said.
The facility could help "the many people around the island now who are without homes, huddling under tents and blue tarps and in cars, and cold, wet and damp," said state Sen. Gary Hooser (D, Kauai-Niihau).
The project will be developed on two acres of land that Gov. Linda Lingle handed over to county leaders by an executive order.
First, a former Lihue public school building and another building on the site will be repositioned, Mackler said. Four other portable buildings will also be relocated to the site.
In the second phase, all the buildings will be renovated.
More than $1.5 million of the money came from the federal Community Development Block Grant program and the Equal Economic Development Initiative Grant.
Another $650,000 was given by the state Legislature.