Hale Kipa building serves Westside

WAIMEA — For more than 48 years, Hale Kipa has been the “House of Friendliness” to thousands of Hawaii’s homeless youth who needed a place to stay and someone to talk to while they worked out problems.

Since 1970, the private nonprofit has provided shelter and services to more than 40,000 youth.

Now, Hale Kipa has established a new building on Kauai’s Westside to provide opportunities that strengthen and encourage at-risk youth. Volunteers, youth and staff helped renovate a space previously occupied by a bank in Waimea.

The new facility features a comfortable atmosphere with couches, snacks and quiet study areas to offer an additional safe and welcoming environment.

“We meet with the kids and the families and just try to work with them, get to know them and hear from them what’s going on,” said Kyla Dill, Hale Kipa case manager. “We let them know this program is not supposed to be a punishment. We’re here because we don’t want them to end up in court. We want to support them and improve attendance and make school a better place for them.”

Hale Kipa opened its Waimea office to support the launch of School Attendance Support Services, a program designed to help middle- and high-school youth curb truancy.

“The program is an opportunity to identify youth early on when they start to miss school,” said Dill. “Our goal is to help get to the bottom of what the barriers are that are keeping the youth from getting to school, then work with them to solve those issues.”

Hale Kipa provides academic support, transportation and other services to help students get back on track and stay there. Participants are referred by school staff.

“We help with transportation to school also,” Dill said. “We have resources to get them Kauai bus passes, if that’s what they need. I just went this morning and picked up a kid today who missed his bus.”

The Truancy Court Collaboration pilot project, which led to the creation of School Attendance Support Services, was created on Kauai in 2017 to improve student attendance and family engagement. The program serves about 30 youth and will continue through the next academic year.

The pilot program will also support summer academics, and Hale Kipa will host a graduation celebration.

The organization provides services from two smaller offices in Waimea Canyon Middle School and Waimea High School. Administrators from Family Court, the two schools, the state Department of Education, Kauai Police Department and Lili‘uokalani Trust worked to create the pilot program on Kauai, following a similar program on Oahu.

“We have some space at each of the schools to work from, just so we can have a presence on campus and be there to meet with kids,” Dill said. “But the off-campus location right down from the post office has been really great because it offers us another place to meet with families.”

The new Hale Kipa office may be used to provide services to Waimea-area students in the School Success program, which assists young adults up to age 22 with GED, credit-recovery and skills-based education.

“It’s a comfortable space,” Dill said. “It’s kind of like a neutral zone, especially for families who may not have the best feelings towards school at the moment because of their present situation.”

Hale Kipa also has a location in Lihue.

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John Steinhorst, reporter, can be reached at 245-0435 or jsteinhorst@thegardenisland.com.

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