FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
The nonprofit group Hawaii Helping the Hungry Have Hope, or H-5, in partnership with Living the Word Ministries, a Kakaako church, unveiled two donated tour buses yesterday that have been retrofitted as dormitories for the homeless. Luci Billianor got a first look inside one of the mobile shelters yesterday, and said she was the first person to sign up for the program.
Homeless: Retrofitted buses pulled into duty
Sixteen people moved from campsites under a freeway overpass last night to sleep on clean sheets aboard two tour buses retrofitted as dormitories.
The mobile shelters are provided by the nonprofit organization Hawaii Helping the Hungry Have Hope, or H-5, in partnership with a Kakaako church that has provided food and outreach services to homeless people in the area for two years.
"Peace on the people who will stay here, let them know there is love in this community," said the Rev. Raymond Black, senior pastor of Living the Word Ministries, who blessed the buses in a brief ceremony yesterday at the church's Kilihau Street parking lot.
The unique bus shelters were the brainchild of Utu Langi, director of H-5, which has been feeding homeless people in parks around the island for five years. Langi, who is the manager of the state's Next Step transitional housing site in Kakaako, said: "This place is a first step for people. The next step will be to move people into transitional shelters and eventually back into housing on their own."
Paul Gabriel climbed aboard, patted a mattress and said: "Under a roof, that's good, I can sleep well." He said he has slept under the freeway off and on for five years. "I hope I can get a job and can save some money to get my own place."
Luci Billianor said she was the first to sign up. The mother of three adult children, she said she has a bedroom in her grandmother's house but chooses to be "houseless" for now. "This church has inspired me; I'm already a volunteer here." The only drawback to the shelter is that her boyfriend must sleep in the other bus, she said.
The mobile shelter will operate under the same rules as the Kakaako shelter, with a 10 p.m. curfew for residents, no visitors and daily exit by 8:30 a.m. A hot meal will be served each evening. One bus is for women, the other for men.
Eighteen 40-foot buses were donated by Roberts Hawaii. H-5 received a $500,000 state grant to retrofit the buses and provide staff for the mobile shelters which have been dubbed the Evans - short for evening angels - Project.
Langi said many others have helped get his show on the road. Students from University of Hawaii, Kapiolani Community College and Punahou School stripped paint from the tour buses. People who stay at the Kakaako shelter volunteered to help gut the tour buses' interiors. Carpenters working for Hawaiian Dredging donated hours to refit the interiors into snug berths. Hotels donated sheets and mattresses.
Langi said the shelter will house single people since families are provided for at other locations. Two other buses are in the process of being refurbished, he said.