DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
In Waianae, Kahikolu 'Ohana Hale O Waianae is nearing completion of a project that will house up to 400 homeless by this summer. The project will provide emergency, transitional and affordable rental units. Pastor Wade "Boo" Soares gives a tour of the site.
Souls to subdivisions
A pastor long involved in helping homeless people is opening his dream project in July
Pastor Wade "Boo" Soares has taken care of the homeless for two decades using his own home, but now he is moving onto a bigger operation that is Oahu's first comprehensive project offering emergency, transitional and affordable housing.
Soares' dream -- the Kahikolu 'Ohana Hale O Waianae, a $16 million state-supported project -- is scheduled to open in July and eventually house 350 to 400 homeless. Kahikolu will be the first of three state-funded shelters to open this year.
Kaulana Park, former state HEART (Homeless Efforts Achieving Results Together) Homeless Solutions team leader, said Soares should be given "a lot of credit for his innovation in doing so much on not a whole lot of property (about 4 acres). Soares had the passion and heart to do it for the homeless. It's his dream. ... He remains committed to transforming their lives back towards self-sufficiency."
State Comptroller Russ Saito, new leader of HEART, said the Hawaii Housing Finance Development Corp. put up $13 million for construction of the $16 million Waianae project. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation donated $3 million and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs contributed $1.2 million for operational costs, Saito said.
The project consists of 30 emergency, 32 transitional and 24 affordable rental units, a total of 72 apartments. Primary candidates will be families with children, but emergency dorms will be available for up to 30 single men and women, Soares said.
The Hawaii Coalition of Christian Churches, a nonprofit of five churches Soares formed five years ago, will operate Kahikolu on the Waianae property, once the site of a rundown government housing project.
"God has entrusted me with these families. Now the Lord wants me to watch over subdivisions," said Soares.
"Everbody (on the beaches) is waiting. ... We're excited. It blows my socks off," he said. The whole idea of Kahikolu is "not providing a welfare system. We have to stop enabling the homeless and equip them with skills," he said. The project will provide employment, education, entrepreneurial know-how, and a home residents can take pride in, not just another slapped-together shack, he said.
Soares has long been involved in helping the homeless, opening his own home to them.
Nineteen guests were the most Soares and his wife Melvina ever had at one time in the past 20 years. Sometimes it meant moving out of their own bedroom to accommodate them, but "that's the kind of wife I got; I am blessed."
Soares believes in teaching people how to "fish for a lifetime" -- sometimes literally -- so they can feed themselves instead of depending on handouts.
Soares once ran out of food for his homeless house guests, so he put everyone to work, weaving gill nets in the living room, laying them in the ocean, and catching fish.
The new homeless project will have a literacy program, medical and dental services, a nursery and preschool.
It will also have a commercial kitchen which will kill "four or five birds with one stone": It will supply a few lunchwagons, feed a preschool and an emergency shelter, eventually going into catering; at the same time, it will provide vocational training, employment, and turn a profit to pay for costs, he said.