State sets up homeless shelter
The nighttime facility is at an undisclosed location in Honolulu
The state will provide a closed-in, nighttime-only shelter for some 200 homeless who have been staying at two Honolulu churches for more than a month since being thrown out of Ala Moana Beach Park.
Housing and Community Development Director Stephanie Aveiro would not disclose last night which site had been chosen for the shelter, but said it would be announced at farewell breakfasts today for the homeless at Central Union and Kawaiaha'o churches.
She would say that the shelter is in Honolulu and was chosen out of nine potential spots the state had evaluated, including Sand Island State Park.
A service provider, which Aveiro would not name, will be "responsible for the program." Storage will be provided, along with dinners courtesy of faith-based and other groups. It is unclear how long the shelter will be open.
"It is a temporary, transitional facility," Aveiro said. "We are providing a safe, secure place for them to sleep and keep their belongings. It's not forever."
She would not say if the site was on state property.
Central Union Church is set to serve dinner at the site today, but its interim senior pastor said last night he had not yet been told where the shelter is.
"We're all waiting," the Rev. Don Hammond said.
A homeless group at Kawaiaha'o, Ohana O Hawaii, also had not been given information on the new site.
The organization's president, Leinati Matautia, said yesterday she would prefer a site where the homeless could opt to stay the whole day, rather than being forced to leave during the daylight hours.
"Those who don't have jobs, that means we got to pack up our things and leave," Matautia said.
The group had planned to march to Sand Island this morning from Kawaiaha'o Church. Matautia said some homeless could still be headed to the state park if they do not want to stay at a nighttime-only shelter.
The prospect of more homeless at Sand Island park did not sit well with some users yesterday.
"Families come here," said MeiLing Molita, of Kalihi, who celebrated her son's eighth birthday at the park's campgrounds yesterday. "I don't think we'll feel safe."
Kalihi resident Iris Amasiu agreed. She and her family were in the park yesterday, propping up an inflatable bouncing house for her son's sixth birthday.
"It's junk for us," Amasiu said. "I don't think it would be safe for me to take our kids here."
Meanwhile, some Sand Island businesses say the homeless might just help cut down on criminals using the park to enter nearby businesses.
"We have voiced our concerns to the state many times," said Rodney Kim, executive director of the Sand Island Business Association. "Most of the businesses that get vandalized or where thefts occur are when people come through the state park."
ON MARCH 27 the city started closing Ala Moana Park nightly, sending about 200 homeless elsewhere.
Many ended up at Kawaiaha'o and Central Union. The churches, thanks to donations and volunteers, also provided breakfast and dinner daily.
"It's been exhausting but it's been so exhilarating," said Hammond, who was at Central Union yesterday to oversee dinner service. "It's created its own energy. The congregation has responded."
For the homeless who have stayed at the church, the last month has proved both frustrating and rewarding.
Many said the move to Central Union has meant meeting new friends and finding hope amid the outpouring of support and generosity.
Hammond said he has seen two of the homeless at the church go into rehab centers and several others find jobs. The homeless who sought drug treatment told Hammond they did so after being encouraged by volunteers and fellow homeless.
But at the church yesterday, there was also a sense of worry. Some said they hated moving on.
And last night, many were disappointed to learn from Hammond that they would have to wait one more day before getting word of where they would be headed next.
"We feel better going to OCCC (Oahu Community Correctional Center)," said a man who identified himself as Louie. "You get a bunk, a bed, three meals a day."
Dwight, who did not want to use his last name, said the time at Central Union has allowed him to pick up the pieces of his life after a string of bad luck.
Today, he said, he will drop off his 9-year-old at school and head to a new job at a maintenance business.
Dwight, his wife, who has an anxiety disorder, and their daughter have been living in their van -- from Ala Moana to Waianae -- for more than three years after being evicted on short notice from an apartment.
"I would like us to get on a new foot," he said while sitting with his daughter on a stoop at the church yesterday just before dinner was served.
Nearby, Jenny Brannock sat in her wheelchair, chatting with other homeless people. The 60-year-old moved to Ala Moana eight months ago after the rent on her apartment went up by $500.
"I just wish and pray we all get help," she said, propping up her swollen feet on a chair.