Hawaii Catholic Herald -Turning Used Shelters Into Senior Housing

Waimea, Friday, July 22, 2011 – HOPE Services Hawaii is taking recycling to a new level. With the help of parish volunteers, the new Big Island-based Catholic non-profit agency that addresses homelessness will be redeeming houses.

When the 24-piece Kawaihae Transitional Shelter operated by Catholic Charities Hawaii on the west side of the Big Island closed on Feb. 28 and was scheduled for demolition, Carol Ignacio couldn’t bear to see the small housing units go to waste.

The perfect solution dawned on the executive director of the diocesan Office of Social Ministry when she remembered that in 2001, Sacred Heart Church in Pahoa on the east side had proposed the creation in the parish of a 20-unit housing complex for the elderly.

Ignacio thought, “What if we move the Kawaihae units over to Pahoa?” Before proceeding with her idea, Ignacio procured a grant from the With Grateful Hearts diocesan capital campaign to have the homes first checked out by a structural engineer. The engineer did a thorough safety analysis on each unit.

“We needed to make sure it was worth it for us to do it,” Ignacio said.

Once she knew the units were safe and she had the appropriate land permits, Ignacio approached Sacred Heart Parish to see if the parishioners were interested.

“We don’t have large sums of money, so the parish will have to help with the labor,” Ignacio said.

Pastoral council chairman Allan Deehr spoke about the project at all of the Masses. The response was overwhelming. Ignacio said that out of 254 people, 250 agreed to help. They signed up to cook, sew, paint, dig, provide equipment and other needed activities. Some of the funding will come from a With Grateful Hearts grant.

“I thought, ‘We have a match,’” Ignacio said.

The Kawaihae buildings were given to HOPE Services Hawaii. Before the shelter closed, HOPE Services had found housing for all its residents. With County of Hawaii approval, the structures will soon be transported 85 miles across the island to diocesan property in Pahoa next to Sacred Heart Parish.

The parish will help with the renovations, partnering with HOPE Services Hawaii to prepare the 20 single low-income affordable units for kupuna. The parishioners will provide visitation, transportation, yard work and other needs the residents might have — everything except financial management.

“They are so excited and have come forth with all kinds of folks who will lend their gifts to the project,” Ignacio said.

Also contributing to the project was an architecture class from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Eight students from the class did a six-week community service project to renovate and to configure the units at the new site. Using their own money, students flew over to the Big Island, went to Kawaihae to see the units and visited their destination site in Pahoa near Sacred Hearts Church.

They presented the pastoral administrator, Father Carlito Joey Ranjo, and parish representatives with PowerPoint presentations, digital renderings and models showing a variety of innovative ideas for the complex. Father Ranjo will present the options to the parish and choose the most popular designs at a meeting at the church on July 15.

Ignacio said she expects the buildings will be moved in August.


Dahm, Lisa . “Big Isle parishioners to help turn used shelters into senior housing”Hawaii Catholic Herald, 22 July. 2011. http://www.hawaiicatholicherald.org/Home/tabid/256/newsid884/3758/Default.aspx