Support and shelter for homeless in West Hawai‘i will continue at a campus in Kailua-Kona for the immediate future thanks to an action of the Hawai‘i County Council.
The Council on Wednesday, Aug. 3, during its regular meeting adopted Resolution 445, which authorizes the renewal of a lease with HOPE Services Hawai‘i for county property located at 74-5593 Pawai Place at an annual cost of $10. The lease is for two years.
The location serves as HOPE Services’ West Hawai‘i Homeless Campus. It houses The Friendly Place Resource Center, an assessment and resource center for homeless people; the West Hawai‘i Emergency Housing Program for single homeless people, a 31-unit shelter that is the only permanent homeless shelter in West Hawai‘i; and Hale Kikaha, a permanent supportive housing community of 23 units.
According to HOPE Services Chief Executive Officer Brandee Menino during a meeting of the County Council Finance Committee on July 19, during the last Point-In-Time Count, which provides an estimate of homelessness on a specific night during the last 10 days of January each year, there were 134 homeless individuals in the Kailua-Kona area.
Menino said during Wednesday’s council meeting that 51% of those served by the emergency shelter program are the most vulnerable of the homeless population.
“So it is the harder to serve — those that you see on street corner, those who are challenged with substance abuse issues, those with mental health issues … ,” she told council members. “We know that demand of the services is much more than we can provide. We just have 31 beds in West Hawai‘i. So we deliberately decided to serve those who are most vulnerable with the limited resources we have.”
Menino, in response to a question from Hāmākua Councilwoman Heather Kimball, said HOPE Services prioritizes based on the needs of the homeless people it serves at the campus.
The emergency shelter is open and staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz lent her support to the lease renewal. She also hopes some of the funds that will be generated byBill 111, a measure the council passed earlier this year to support housing and homelessness initiatives, can be used to help fill in some of the gaps in funding HOPE Services experiences.
“HOPE Services has been transparent in providing documentation and answering the council’s questions,” Toni Symons, program director for The Family Assessment Center by Na Kahua Hale O Ulu Wini, wrote in a letter of support for Resolution 445. “Let us continue to work together to help more people get the help they need and build more housing.”
Attorney Barbara Franklin said in another letter of support for the measure that if the operations at the Kona site were to be disrupted by the failure to renew the lease, it is likely people would be forced onto the streets, endangering their health and safety.
“Imagine how public spaces, education, schools, businesses and tourism would be impacted if this site were to close,” Franklin wrote. “Where would people currently receiving meals at The Friendly Place go to eat? Where would the people go who have disabilities and acute needs who live in permanent supportive housing at Hale Kikaha?”
People would no longer be able to get the food, shelter, safety or other services that are provided by HOPE Services at the site if the lease were not renewed, she added.
Four people, including Paul Normann, executive director of Neighborhood Place of Puna and co-chair of Community Alliance Partners, also spoke in support of the lease renewal and the work HOPE Services does on the West Hawai‘i campus during the public testimony portion of Wednesday’s meeting. Community Alliance Partners is a coalition of Big Island homeless service providers, government representatives and community stakeholders working to prevent and end homelessness.
“We’ve been here before,” Normann testified via Zoom. “We all know that the solution to homelessness is housing. Housing, housing, housing, right? We all know that. We know that shelter does not end homelessness.”
However, while the solution is housing, shelters like the one in Kona are needed until sufficient housing is available.
“So Community Alliance Partners strongly encourages you to support (Resolution 445),” Normann said.
Puna Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder, who introduced the resolution, said he spoke with Menino and visited the campus. He has seen first-hand, as a business owner, how hard it is to deal with situations that arise from the homeless community. He also understands concerns raised by the community.
“But I also understand what HOPE Services is offering toward community and what they’re doing in the area and how much they’re doing for the community and for our homeless folks,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said. “They’re doing a great job in my eyes, and I’d like to see this lease continue.”
Resolution 445 was approved 8-0, with Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas absent.
In other business Wednesday, the council also approved, with little or no discussion and no dissent:
Resolution 446, which awards a $24,880 Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Maintenance Fund stewardship grant to Kohanaiki ‘Ohana to protect, preserve and restore the ‘O‘oma Beach property in North Kona.
Resolution 447, which awards a $123,500 Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Maintenance Fund stewardship grant to Nā Mamo O Kāwā to protect, preserve and restore the Kāwā Bay properties in Ka‘ū.
Resolution 448, which awards a $18,150 Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Maintenance Fund stewardship grant to Ho‘omalu Ka‘ū to protect, preserve and restore the Kahua ‘Olohū Kaunāmano property in Ka‘ū.
Resolution 449, which awards a $191,609 Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Maintenance Fund stewardship grant to Friends of Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden to protect, preserve and restore the Amy B. H. Greenwell Garden properties in South Kona.
Resolution 450, which transfers $360,000 to a designated fund account in the Geothermal Relocation and Community Benefits Fund to hire security for Isaac Kepo‘okalani Hale Beach Park.
Resolution 459, which allows for the receipt of $1,879,773 in federal funds to be used by the county Mass Transit Agency to be used for operational costs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and lost passenger fares through Dec. 31, 2025.
Resolution 463, which awards a $92,300 Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Maintenance Fund stewardship grant to Pōhāhā I Ka Lani to protect, preserve and restore the Waipi‘o Valley Lookout in Hāmākua.
Resolution 464, which provides $4,000 from the Council District 8 Contingency Relief account for a grant to the Hōlualoa Foundation for Arts and Culture to assist with expenses for the Donkey Mill Art Center exhibition program.
Resolution 465, which provides $3,000 from the Council District 8 Contingency Relief account for a grant to Humanity Hale to assist with expenses for its life-enhancing programs for at-risk youth.
Resolution 466, which provides $5,000 from the Council District 8 Contingency Relief account for a grant to Ikaikamauloa Youth Foundation Inc. to assist with expenses related to its Kona Gold Boxing Club.
Resolution 468, which provides $2,000 from the Council District 4 Contingency Relief account for a grant to Pōhaku Pelemaka for expenses related to its community engagement efforts.
Resolution 469, which provides $7,500 from the Council District 4 Contingency Relief account for a grant to Mālama O Puna for expenses related to the maintenance and beautification of the Rene Siracusa Pāhoa Roundabout.
Resolution 474, which authorizes the mayor to enter into a five-year lease, with an estimated monthly cost of $150, for a color copy machine at the Department of Liquor Control.
Resolution 476, which authorizes the mayor to enter into a one-year lease, with an option for an additional year, with KS Owner LLC for commercial space at the Kings’ Shops in Waikōloa for the Mass Transit Agency to use for parking for up to 10 buses and provide a breakroom and rest area for bus operators.
The first reading of Bill 182, which amends county code to increase the general exemption amount for property owned and occupied as a principal home and adds new age ranges with corresponding exemption amounts to the schedule of exemptions for property owners of principal homes who are 60 and older.
The first reading of Bill 186, which amends county code to expand and clarify eligibility for the Kuleana Land exemption and the verification process required to maintain Kuleana Land status when property ownership is transferred to a family member.
The first reading of Bill 188, a companion measure to Resolution 459, which appropriates $1,879,773 in federal funds to the Mass Transit Agency for operational costs resulting from the pandemic and lost passenger fares through Dec. 31, 2025.
The first reading of Bill 189, which appropriates $20,000 to the Elderly Activities Division Special Program Miscellaneous Contributions account, bringing the total appropriation to $25,000 because of an anticipated increase in donations.
The first reading of Bill 190, which extends thesuspension of faresfor all fixed routes and paratransit services offered by the county’s Hele-On system through Dec. 31, 2025.
The second and final reading of Bill 191, which appropriates $26,000 to the Hawai‘i County Food Access Summit Program account to be used for the 2022 Fall Hawai‘i County Food Access Summit and 2023 Summer Hawai‘i County Food Access Summit.