TOM FINNEGAN / TFINNEGAN@STARBULLETIN.COM
Nicole Vasques, 25, and her 2-month-old daughter, Elisabeth, showed off their new transitional housing apartment yesterday, one of eight units designed for families at Manaolana, Kauai's first homeless shelter.
Kauai’s first homeless shelter opens
The facility, which was delayed in opening, will house up to 39 people
LIHUE » Kauai's first homeless shelter finally opened yesterday, more than a year and a half later than originally scheduled.
But that mattered little to the half-dozen families already moved in at the combination emergency shelter and transitional housing facility named Manaolana, or "Hope."
"We love everything about it," said Nicole Vasques, who moved in two weeks ago with her 2-month-old and her 2 1/2-year-old. "It's clean, it's great, I love the neighbors."
Vasques and the 20 other residents, including a handful of children, were joined by politicians, pastors, community volunteers and others to bless the new facility yesterday.
Manaolana, on a 2-acre parcel surrounded by nonprofit groups and county and state offices, will house up to 39 people, both as a night-to-night emergency shelter and as a transitional housing center for families, who can stay up to two years.
Using converted portable offices and classrooms, Manaolana cost about $2 million in state, federal and county funds to create. The land was turned over to the county from the state, and is leased to the nonprofit Kauai Economic Opportunity, which has its offices next door.
Manaolana was originally scheduled to open in late 2005 or early 2006, but moving the portable classrooms took more time than originally thought. High construction costs also pushed back the opening of the project.
The group, which runs the majority of homeless programs on Kauai, is operating the facility and identifying those in need.
And there are quite a few that need a hand this holiday season, officials said.
More than 900 people, including many families with children, have been identified as homeless on Kauai, said MaBel Fujiuchi, Kauai Economic Opportunity executive director.
"You are the chosen few," Fujiuchi said to the residents yesterday. "We are really happy to have you next door."
Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste said the former Lihue Courthouse is being turned into another transitional housing facility, with room for 20 families with children.
For Vasques the county housing relieved a tremendous burden, as she was "bouncing around from place to place" with her newborn, Elisabeth, and toddler, Ryder.
She spent time at friends' homes, at a local youth hostel and elsewhere as she tried to raise her two children.