Operator is found for Waianae shelter
The state hopes to open a new Waianae homeless shelter for up to 300 people early next month now that an operator has been found, state homeless team coordinator Kaulana Park said.
United States Veterans Initiative, a national nonprofit service provider with experience housing homeless veterans in Hawaii in Kalaeloa, has agreed in principle to manage the shelter.
"We still have some agreements to sign. We've agreed in principle," said Darryl Vincent, director for U.S. Vets-Hawaii. "We've agreed to move forward to be the lead agency, pending other documents, which should not be a problem."
U.S. Vets is the nation's largest organization helping homeless veterans, with 10 sites across the country, including in Arizona, California, Texas, Nevada and Hawaii.
Vincent said U.S. Vets wanted to operate the shelter because it saw an opportunity to give back to the community and offer an outlet for its veterans program, which specializes in getting veterans back to work.
The state had projected opening the shelter at the Waianae Civic Center on Dec. 31, but the project was delayed for about two months because human remains were found at the construction site, Park said.
Vincent said changes would be made to U.S. Vets' program because the Waianae shelter will house families with children.
"We're relying on those providers to tell us what we're going to have to change," he said.
The homeless program at U.S. Vets is highly structured, Vincent said, with a zero-tolerance policy toward drugs, and drug tests every week.
"I imagine that's something we'll have to soften, and not necessarily be as rigid with that rule as we are here," he said.
"With families, that might not be an immediate goal," he said. "There's a different dynamic when you're treating a family versus when you're treating an individual."
Vincent will hire staff for the shelter, including a director, operations coordinator and shelter manager. Veterans will be able to work as shelter security.
During the day there will be programs for the residents such as job searches and schooling to help people move out of the shelter.
Since U.S. Vets began its homeless program at Kalaeloa in 2003, more than 800 people have been served, Vincent said. People completing the program have had an 80 percent employment rate, an 85 percent sobriety rate and an 83 percent housing rate, he said.
The Civic Center shelter is scheduled to be open for five years, although Park hopes the shelter would be needed for a shorter time after more affordable rental housing is built. An estimated 1,500 people are to pass through the shelter's doors over five years, with 300 people filling the shelter and residents staying for as much as one year.
"Hopefully at the end of the day, (transitional shelters) will be the start-off point versus an emergency shelter," Park said.