Hilo, Tuesday, June 7, 2011 – HOPE Services officials set six months as the maximum stay for any person using the new West Hawaii Emergency Housing Facility in Kailua-Kona.

When figures were released recently for its first half year in service to the community, at total of 50 people had used the shelter, 80 percent of whom already had been placed in permanent housing — whether that’s a subsidized rental, moving in with extended family or entering a group home, HOPE Services CEO Brandee Menino said.

“We probably just made a small dent in the chronic homeless numbers,” Menino said. “We haven’t been able to quantify it.”

But it is a dent and it is making a difference, she said.

That placement rate means the shelter is getting people into housing more quickly than anticipated, she said, in part because rental subsidies remain available and in part because HOPE Services, the Veterans Administration and other agencies still have money for those subsidies, she added.

Another surprise during the shelter’s first six months, she said, was the number of elderly people who sought housing.

“At least one-third have been elderly,” she said. “We weren’t prepared for the frail and elderly.”

Older homelss people came to the shelter with medical conditions that added to the other problems they face, Menino said. The West Hawaii Community Health Center’s mobile van, which parks at the shelter daily, provided much-needed medical services, she added.

There are still homeless people on the streets, beaches and in parks during the day, because the shelter is open from 5 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. Daytime services are provided at The Friendly Place Drop-In Center next door.

About a fourth of the people who used the shelter are now working or enrolled in college classes, Menino said.

Men and women are housed in separate wings. The shelter has 16 units for men and 15 for women.

Kona police officers occasionally bring in people in the middle of the night, Menino said.

Because of the shelter’s location in the Old Industrial Area, most of the clients are from Kailua-Kona, Menino said. Agencies like HOPE Services are still figuring out ways to help homeless populations in other areas, particularly Ocean View.

More homeless housing is to become available in West Hawaii later this year, replacing the 24-unit Kawaihae Transitional Housing that closed Feb. 28.

Planned transitional housing on Hina-Lani Street, above the Kaloko Industrial Area, is under construction, with the 12-unit first phase to be done this August.

Miller, Erin . “Emergency housing helps in Kona”Hawaii Tribune Herald, 7 June. 2011. http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/sections/news/community/emergency-housing-helps-kona.html
Email Erin Miller at emiller@westhawaiitoday.com.