Homeless begin move to shelter in Waianae
The facility will charge a fee, but cost will not force anyone out
The state opened its newest homeless shelter yesterday on the Waianae Coast, but homeless people living on Maili Beach remained anxious about the city's plans to evict them at the end of this month.
"I don't like it," said Venise Lewis. She received a flier from city officials this week warning about the closure of Maili Beach Park beginning March 27. "If they don't get housing, everybody's stuck with no place to go."
Meanwhile, the state quietly opened its newest homeless shelter -- a $7 million Sprung structure -- yesterday at the Waianae Civic Center site. After a small blessing ceremony, a handful of families moved in.
The shelter is named Pai'olu Kaiaulu. An official blessing ceremony will be held later this month. The shelter will house 300 people when fully operational.
Tulu Toa, an outreach specialist for the Waianae Coast Outreach, said she knew of 10 people who moved in -- three three-person families and one single person with health problems.
She said she will help another three families move in today.
Darryl Vincent, director of U.S. Vets Hawaii, the organization running the shelter, said they were still learning processes for running the shelter. "We want to do it right," he said.
The new Quonset hut-like buildings are covered in a tan skin and surrounded by a fence with security guards at the entrance. Purcilia Poyer, who lives behind the shelter in Kauiokalani state housing, said the shelter made an improvement to the site.
"It cleaned the place. The kids, they come and spend the day in the bushes," she said.
Laurie "Sunny" Johansen was among the first to move in yesterday, along with her boyfriend and 10-year-old son, Dakota.
"It's just going to run smooth. I can tell," said Johansen, who is a full-time hairstylist and mother of two.
Johansen said she has a 12-by-12-foot room with a shelf, dresser, towels and toiletries and four roll-away beds that she is able to configure as she likes. Perhaps most important, she has a door and key.
For Johansen, the Waianae Civic Center will help stabilize her children's lives. Her son Dakota will attend intermediate school nearby, and she will try to regain custody of her 16-year-old son, who is in foster care.
"It's just going to be a good place to live," she said.
The shelter, which will be open around the clock, is not free for the residents. According to an application form, the fee for a family of four or more is $144 a month for the first three months, then $216 per month. For a family of two or three, it is $120 per month for the first three months, rising to $180. Single adults or couples will pay $80 for the first three months and then $120.
However, Vincent said no one will be denied if they do not have money.
Bill Brennan, the city spokesman, said the city had stalled a plan to clean Maili Beach Park several months until the state finished the shelter.
"The city's responsibility is to clean and maintain that park, and that's what we're planning to do," he said, adding that they are working under the request of the residents.
Stan Maka, who said he was shocked after realizing he would have to live on the beach, remained hopeful about the shelter.
"It's going to be good," he said. "Finally I'm going to get off this beach."