DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Ohana, Family of the Living God church has set up a village-style transitional shelter for the homeless in Hauula. Ulrich Naki worked on building one of the shelters, called "yurts," yesterday. CLICK FOR LARGE
Church rebuilds homeless lives
Taking a break from his job, Ulrich K. Naki smiles to himself and thinks about how his life has come full circle.
After leaving Hauula, the 1975 Kahuku High School graduate has finally returned to his hometown. His last steady job more than a decade ago was in construction, and now he has a drill in his hand again.
To help or apply to join the Puu Honua Initial Contact Shelter for homeless, contact:
Sadrian "Brother Sage" Chee
54-058 Hauula Homestead Road, Hauula, HI 96717
And after living on the streets and beaches for 13 years, he's helping to build shelters for the homeless.
"I'm able to put my life back together again," Naki, 50, said yesterday.
Naki was one of the first to join Puu Honua Initial Contact Shelter, a 2-month-old community program in Hauula that houses the homeless and helps them become self-sufficient again.
Naki is still a part of the program and said this is his second chance to pursue a new dream -- the ministry. "I am blessed to have a roof over my head again," he said.
With the state focusing most of its work to open new shelters on the Waianae Coast and in Honolulu, they are leaving it up to community organizations to help reduce homelessness in the North Shore and Windward area.
"We believe this is the best way to help the homeless by getting the community involved," said Sadrian "Brother Sage" Chee, pastor of Ohana, Family of the Living God, which started the program.
With the help of state grants totaling nearly $600,000, Chee will have a total of six "yurts" -- large portable tents made of collapsible wood -- behind his church on Hauula Homestead Road. Families have the highest priority to stay in the circular, weatherproof yurts.
But yurts are only sleeping facilities. Under the 40-day program, Chee said, participants must do four hours of community service a day or 24 hours a week per family.
"We want them to become assets to the community," he said.
He sets them up with programs if needed, such as alcohol or substance abuse, and community service, like cooking meals at Aala Park. This way, participants can also gain new skills that will hopefully help land them a job to support themselves, Chee said.
Thirty people have completed the shelter's program, said Winona Dean, the program's manager. They are either working or going to school and living in transitional shelter or housing.
"The blessing is to see them become a part of the community again," Dean said.
As of yesterday, there were three people in the program. Dean said they received about 150 applications and will accept more after an interview process.
Chee hopes to obtain some land to set up yurts in the North Shore, especially with the city's plans to sweep and clean parks between Mokuleia and Velzyland soon that will displace homeless.
"After we fix our community, we want to fix other communities as well," he said.