Big Island, Wednesday, November 20, 2011 – Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi on Tuesday will formally open a low-income rental and transitional housing complex for West Hawaii that will also provide employment training and readiness programs to homeless families.

Known as Na Kaulana O Ulu Wini, the first 40 units of what will become a 96-unit, service enriched project, will provide case management, mail and computer access along with an array of on-site social such as employment and life skills training, mental health services, counseling and childcare.

A ceremony which commemorates the opening of this facility on Hina-Lani Street, mauka of Costco and just makai of the water tank, begins at 10 a.m.

The complex was built by the county’s Office of Housing and Community Development, and oversight of the various on-site resources will be provided by the procured program operator, HOPE Services Hawaii, formerly the Care-A-Van program of the Diocese of Honolulu.

“While I’m certainly gratified that this is another project on time and on budget, what I am most proud of is the fact that we are doing our share to fill a gap in the housing spectrum in West Hawaii,” said Mayor Kenoi. “Na Kaulana O Ulu Wini provides the first two steps in allowing our families to escape homelessness.”

The transitional component of the program will house and serve families impacted by homelessness and earning less than 30 percent of the county’s adjusted median income (AMI), while the rental component will house and serve families earning less than 50 percent of the county’s AMI. The project and programs will give preference to families experiencing homelessness.

Each of the units will be 750 square feet with two bedrooms and one bath. Other features of this complex is a community center with laundry facilities, a common kitchen and meeting area, administrative offices for the program operator, and a dividable multi-purpose room for classes and meetings. The community will be powered by photovoltaic panels, and when completed, 80 percent of the water needed for irrigation will be produced by the on-site wastewater treatment plant.

“This long-awaited program is the collaborative effort of many partners within the community, and comes at a time of great need,” said Mayor Kenoi, who said more than a third of the un-housed population of Hawaii Island is made up of families with children. “The arrival of this facility during these especially challenging times could not be more appropriate.”

Funding for the first 40 units was provided through a county Capital Improvement Project appropriation of $7.5 million, and a U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant of $4.87 million grant awarded through the state Housing Finance and Development Corporation. The next phase of 36 units and an employment training facility will also be a mix of HUD and county money.

The transitional component replaces the former Kawaihae Transitional Housing Project, which had to be shut down because of its use of large-capacity cesspools, which were ordered shut down by the Environmental Protection Agency. The closure of the Kawaihae facility is nearly complete and the structures have been moved to East Hawaii.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of Housing Director Steve Arnett and his staff,” said Mayor Kenoi. “This is a significant accomplishment, especially since it comes on the heels of opening the Kamakoa Nui Workforce Housing Project.”

On Friday, the Mayor Kenoi formally opened Kamakoa Nui, which will eventually be a 1,200 unit affordable housing community near employment centers in Waikoloa, and a 12-acre public park.

Link to the Hawaii 24/7 article: