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Hawaii Homeless Shelter Near Capacity Weeks After Opening

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HILO, Hawaii — The newest homeless shelter on the Big Island has reached near capacity weeks after opening, Hawaii housing officials said.

The emergency shelter Keolahou is 88% full after the first phase of renovations, Hawaii News Now reported Friday. Completed construction opened 25 beds less than a month ago and 22 of them are already occupied.

The former hospital building caters housing to homeless men who have few places to go in Hilo, officials said. Up until last month, homeless men had just two options and both operate waiting lists because they are routinely full.

The new $2.5 million shelter currently provides medical attention, counseling, employment opportunity connections, laundry facilities, legal guidance and food, officials said. It is the first Ohana Zones in Hawaii aimed at combating the statewide homeless crisis.

"Individuals that need a place to stay can come here and get their second wind," said Sharon Hirota, the head of Hawaii Island's Office of Housing.

The capacity is expected to double to 50 beds next month, officials said. There are also plans to add an additional 20 apartments on the second floor.

"They'll be able to rent it directly to folks who need a place to stay," said Hope Services Executive Director Brandee Menino.

Construction of two more Ohana Zone Projects in Kona is also underway, officials said. One of them is expected to cater to families and be a new shelter space that side of the island doesn't currently have.

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