RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Edgar Auld has been living with his wife and six children at the Next Step shelter in Kakaako for seven months. Although the shelter was scheduled to close at the end of this June, state officials say they can keep it open beyond this summer, giving about 200 residents more time to find another home. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which has not yet leased the property, has plans to build its headquarters there.
Shelter gets reprieve
News of a pact between the state and OHA comforts residents at the site
State officials are hopeful they can keep the only transitional homeless shelter in urban Honolulu open beyond this summer, which would buy time for about 200 residents.
The Kakaako shelter, dubbed the Next Step Project, was scheduled to close at the end of June so the Office of Hawaiian Affairs could build its new headquarters.
"We're not looking at any kind of groundbreaking until 2009," said OHA Administrator Clyde Namuo in an e-mail. He said he would work with Russ Saito, state coordinator for homeless solutions, on finding a date.
Doran Porter, executive director of Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance, the nonprofit entity running Next Step, announced to residents this weekend that the shelter could stay open another year.
In an interview later, he said the state had asked him to submit paperwork for another year-long contract to provide shelter services.
"We're assuming it's for a year through July of '09," Porter said. "We don't know for sure. Until it's actually signed, nothing's definite."
The news comforted shelter residents yesterday.
"It was a relief, especially for me and my family," said Edgar Auld, 37, who lives at the shelter with his six children and his wife, a part-time employee at Aloha Stadium. Without the shelter, the family would return to sleeping in his truck, he said. But with another year, he is hopeful the family can find a place of its own.
In 2006 the state built the Next Step shelter within six days after the city closed Ala Moana Beach Park for repairs. Gov. Linda Lingle issued an emergency proclamation to build the $500,000 shelter after hundreds were displaced.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Next Step shelter in Kakaako, which currently houses about 200 people, will remain open for the time being, perhaps until 2009. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs delayed plans to start building its headquarters on the site.
In a large oceanfront warehouse, the shelter houses about 200 residents, including 16 families, who sleep in 36-square-foot cubicles.
Fearful of sending families back onto the street, state officials began looking last year for options for Next Step families.
One option would convert some public housing units at Puahala Housing in Kalihi into transitional housing units.
In October the board of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority voted to convert 14 Puahala units into transitional units to be used by July 1.
When legislators and neighboring residents decried the decision, the HPHA board decided to take another look at the issue. Critics said it allowed the homeless to cut ahead of thousands of residents on a waiting list, some for a decade.
HPHA board Chairman Travis Thompson said about 30 units at Puahala have been vacant for two years without funding to repair them.
"My interest is in getting units filled," he said. "In the judgment of the board, it was not being viewed as unfair. It was viewed as a win-win situation."
AHHA's Porter said his group had offered to fix up the empty units that shelter residents would live in for two years before returning them to the public housing pool. Porter said he still supports using Puahala units as transitional units because other residents would benefit from programs from his organization.
HPHA's board will vote again on the issue on May 15.
State officials also sought $20 million in funding from the Legislature to build a permanent 24-hour transitional shelter in the urban core. Lawmakers declined to give money, citing a lack of information about the proposed homeless shelter.
Critics of the permanent transitional shelter in Honolulu say money should be spent on more affordable housing.
Porter said a permanent shelter is needed. Next Step shelter largely stopped taking new residents about three months ago, he said.
"We have many other families who are on the street who need a place," he said. "Because of us not knowing the future of Next Step, we haven't been able to open up Next Step to them."
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Landowner Hawaii Community Development Authority has not yet leased a Kakaako property to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which plans to build its headquarters there. A photo caption on this page originally said OHA owns the land, and a correction Tuesday said OHA is leasing the land.