JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
A woman gathers recyclables near a homeless encampment along Kahekili Highway. According to the city's homeless count in January, Windward Oahu had the greatest homeless population increase since 2005. Some agencies are working to build an emergency shelter to serve these homeless, but they need at least $300,000 in grant money to start it.
Kaneohe homeless shelter sought
A coalition hopes to gain community and financial support
Some Windward Oahu agencies are working to build a homeless emergency shelter in Kaneohe, but they need to raise the money and win the community's support.
The 24-hour emergency shelter would house 35 to 40 people for about 30 days in a building in Kaneohe, said Doug Goodman, president of Windward Homeless Coalition, a group of several agencies for the poor on the Windward side.
"Having an emergency shelter means that we will have an available space for anyone that becomes homeless unexpectedly," he said.
The coalition planned to use some of the $2 million in state money given to the city for homelessness, but was thwarted when the state denied its proposal, said Goodman, who is also the Windward district manager at Honolulu Community Action Program, a program that helps the poor.
The coalition has regrouped and will continue searching for at least $300,000 in grant money to start the shelter.
Goodman says another shelter is needed on the windward side because its homeless population has grown recently. There are already at least two shelters there: Puu Honua Initial Contact in Hauula and Family Promise in Kailua.
According to the city's homeless count in January, Windward Oahu had the greatest homeless population increase since 2005.
The homeless population in upper Windward Oahu swelled by 237 percent and in Kaneohe grew by 286 percent. In the count, there were 216 homeless in upper Windward and 120 homeless in Kaneohe. By comparison, Waianae had 532 homeless.
The survey alone is not enough to signify a homeless problem, but a follow up has not been done because of a lack of resources, said Debbie Morikawa, director of the city Department of Customer Services. And before the city releases the state grant money to build a shelter, there would have to be community meetings to see whether there is support, she said.
According to Morikawa, there is still $750,000 available from the $2 million state grant. Institute for Human Services in Honolulu has received $750,000, and $500,000 will go to an unnamed agency on the Waianae Coast. The remainder will be used to purchase a property that will provide more beds for the homeless.
Kaneohe Neighborhood Board Chairman Roy Yanagihara hadn't heard about the emergency shelter, but said a homeless shelter in Kaneohe would be a hard sell. The homeless population in Kaneohe is not visible, he said, with no tent cities or people sleeping in cars along the street. And without a visible problem, residents may not support a shelter.
Kaneohe residents are currently complaining about a care home on Pahia Street because they say its residents are loud or unruly.
"If other residents in Kaneohe have heard of this situation, it may make them more concerned if there's a homeless shelter with about 35 residents living in that area," he said.
Goodman of the Windward Homeless Coalition acknowledged the challenge and importance of winning community support for a shelter.
"We've got to have the community support," he said. "It's got to be a situation where the community feels that what we're doing is the best for the community. If we can't convince them of that, then we cannot proceed."
If the money and support are there, opening a shelter could happen within a year, he said.