Faith groups push for homeless project


POSTED: Sunday, January 24, 2010

About 100 members of different faiths gathered yesterday at a Nuuanu church to generate support for a homeless housing project in Chinatown.

Carol Ignacio, with the Catholic Diocese, which organized the meeting, said the goal was to provide information and get the city to move forward with the project on the mauka end of River Street.

Ignacio said $4.6 million already set aside for the project will lapse in June, and the City Council might not replace those funds.

Debbie Kim Morikawa, director of the city's Community Services Department, said the project is stalled and the funding will lapse because a contract won't be signed by June. She said without strong community support, the city will not move forward with the plan.

In a written message, Bishop Larry Silva, of the Hawaii Catholic Diocese, said the project “;will probably solve many of the problems Chinatown faces with the homeless, but fear and negativity have gained the upper hand.”;

Ignacio, executive director of the diocese's Office of Social Ministry, said they will buy ads in Honolulu's daily newspapers next week publicizing the names of supporters.

The project would provide about 100 affordable housing units for homeless residents and a place where they can receive social services.

Opponents have said they would rather see the land used to help redevelop Chinatown or for senior housing.

Bob Marchant, executive director of the River of Life Mission in Chinatown, said opponents fear the project will attract more homeless to the area.

Morikawa said homeless would stay in the building instead of on the street, unlike a feeding program, which provides a meal but not a place to stay.