(Via Star Advertiser)
A state-owned industrial property next to the Pier 38Honolulu Fishing Village on Nimitz Highway is beingeyed as the site for a state transitional homelessshelter, state homeless services coordinator ScottMorishige told the Honolulu City Council onTuesday.
“This site is in close proximity to social services,schools and places of employment, and it doeshave the infrastructure for electric and waterhookup,” Morishige said of the property, which isnext to the mouth of Kapalama Canal. “So we’recurrently looking to see if we can place five portabletrailers that have been identified on this site to be converted to shelter.”
The walled property is also ideal because “it is central to both the Kakaako and the Kapalama Canalcommunities, so it would be a place that families in those areas can go to.”
Businesses and other stakeholders in the community still need to weigh in before a final decision ismade, Morishige said. He would not disclose a timeline for the site to open, but said “our goal is to tryand get this facility up as quickly as possible.”
The property is under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Transportation’s Harbors Division. Itwas once part of a larger parcel owned by Chevron Hawaii, although how it was used previously wasunclear. “It’s been vacant for some time, and the ground has been remediated,” Morishige said.
A former Hawaii oil refinery employee told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Tuesday night that theproperty was once home to two 25,000-gallon jet fuel tanks.
Morishige said there appears to be a greater need to create shelter for homeless families, and thosefamilies would be the main focus of any shelter sites being considered by Gov. David Ige’sLeadership Team on Homelessness, which includes representatives from the city and the threeneighbor island counties, as well as various social service providers.
Eventually, he said, the state would like to see “permanent affordable housing over a longer-termperiod of time” on the 103,500-square-foot property, he said.
“Our goal is to maximize all of our existing shelters and other resources before we considerconstruction of new shelter facilities, and to strengthen new pathways to housing,” Morishige said.
The state is continuing to look at other sites that have been discussed in recent months, including theLiliha Civic Center near the old transit station across from Aala Park, and the Hilo Hattie site onNimitz Highway in Iwilei.
After speaking to the Council, however, Morishige told the Star-Advertiser that “there are differentsites that we are looking at, but this one seems to be an option that we can quickly move forward onbecause it has many of the factors that we’re looking for in a temporary shelter site.”
He stressed that “we would have to have engagement and dialogue with the community” beforeproceeding.
Area Councilman Joey Manahan, who has been working to remove a growing homelessencampment at Kapalama Canal, told the Star-Advertiser that the site identified by Morishige wouldnot be Manahan’s first preference for a homeless services center.
“Hopefully, the city and the state can exhaust the possibility of Hilo Hattie as a potential site beforecommitting to other sites in the district,” Manahan said.
Manahan and Council Chairman Ernie Martin have lobbied heavily for the Hilo Hattie site, which is upfor sale.
Officials with Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration said they worry about the monthly costs tied to thesite but agreed to look at the suggestion further.
Meanwhile, Caldwell is proceeding with a plan to put up a transitional shelter, also using portablestructures, at a state site at Sand Island. The site would be run by the Institute for Human Services,the state’s largest homeless shelter provider.
During the meeting, several Council members contended that too much of the state and city effortsare being focused on the homeless situation in Kakaako.
But Morishige disagreed. While Kakaako may have been the jumping-off point for solving homelessconcerns, “we’re looking at homelessness as a statewide concern,” he said. “We understand that it’snot isolated just at Kakaako.”
Several Council members also questioned why the Ige administration has not yet declared a state ofemergency to help deal with the homeless crisis.
Morishige said an emergency declaration is among several options that state officials arecontemplating.
In related news, the administration announced that a contractor began pouring foundations Tuesdayin preparation for the installation of a fence to be placed along the sides of Kapalama Canal.
The fence is being built with $240,000 at Manahan’s request.