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Kahauiki Plantation-Style Village: Jobs First

aio Foundation

Hawai’i’s first public-private rental housing project for homeless families should be completed in 2 months.   As HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, a number of social service providers support the project.

Kahauiki Village is nearing completion off Nimitz highway between Ke’ehi Lagoon Park and Sand Island.  Twenty-five families have been selected to move in January 12.   Duane Kurisu, founder of the non-profit aio foundation, says the site was selected to replicate a sugar plantation village with jobs.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Duane Kurisu and Steve Patranik discuss Kahauiki Village concept at Building Industry Association annual conference

“Early on I went to see Vicky Cayetano and she said she will hire any and all homeless adults that need to work.  She said she’s been trying to hire homeless people, but even the best of ‘um would last only two months.  And the reasons they leave is child care and transportation.  So she said if you build it there, that resolves the issue.”

But, the village will provide more than housing.  It will offer a stable environment for children.  Lauren Moriguchi, director or the office on Early Learning, says children in poverty are, intellectually, two years behind their peers when they enter school and that gap just gets wider.

“So when children don’t have access to high quality early childhood programs, they’re 25 percent more likely to not graduate from high school; 40 percent more likely to become a teenage parent; 60 percent more likely not to attend college and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.”

There are an estimated 3-thousand students, pre-school to 12th grade, who self-report that they are homeless or live in an unstable housing situation.  Toby Porter, coordinator for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth Program for the state Department of Education, says that number is probably much higher and housing is not enough.

“Without the community connection afterwards, there’s isolation, so when we address the community aspect in sort of a well-rounded way, we can go further in terms of supports for the many facets of person and family.”

Kahauiki Village residents will pay rent, up to $900 dollars a month for a 2 bedroom home.  Rent includes electricity, water, Wi-Fi and internet.   Institute for Human Services Executive Director Connie Mitchell says this is the model for families to get ahead.

“All the families that are coming in to Kahauiki are working and they don’t have enough money to find someplace in the rental market to afford.  And so it makes it impossible for them to really stabilize, get their kids in school and as the make more money for the family it doesn’t, like, oh, I gotta give more now ‘cause I make more, you know.”

But the centerpiece of Kahauiki Village is jobs and Kurisu says that’s already moving forward.

“There are other people on Sand Island and the airport that have offered jobs.  Even the contractors working on the job said they will hire some of the homeless adults and put them in their apprentice program.  Construction, plumbing, civil work.  And the latest one is the Chef Zone.  There already are some adults that are going through food and beverage training.”

IHS estimates 54 percent of homeless families currently in transition housing will move to Kahauiki Village, freeing up more units for others.  Kurisu says he never looked at it that way before.

“Now I’m kinda taken aback, thinking, now that’s a ‘Wow.’”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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