LIHU‘E — The county’s Housing Agency received community development funds to soften the blow of the coronavirus crisis across public services and by providing new facilities, including the first of a series of tiny house villages.
Part of the funds were authorized by Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in the way of $412,929 in Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) funds. An additional $465,752 comes from unexpended CDBG funds.
The Housing Agency will use $246,095 for the Kauhale Project, a transitional tiny house community to support houseless individuals and families.
“Kauhale” is the Hawaiian term for village. The project will utilize the concept of traditional housing communities with tiny house clusters and communal areas, shared bathrooms and cooking spaces that would provide “a cultural model of non-congregate shelter enabling safe self-isolation that would otherwise be unavailable in group encampments or traditional homeless shelters,” according to a resolution introduced to the Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday.
“We have been working on various iterations of ‘tiny homes’ villages as a solution to homeless encampments for many months,” Housing Director Adam Roversi said in an email Wednesday. “Our current project, spurred on by the availability of funding under the COVID-19 emergency began in earnest in late March. We hope to have the units in place this summer, but there are many bridges to cross to make that a reality.”
A final location has not yet been determined, Roversi said, but there is “a focus on the west side and greater Lihu‘e area, the two areas with the highest concentrations of homeless individuals and families. It is our hope that whatever site is selected, will be just the first in a series of such villages.”
Tiny homes will be purchased with CDBG funds, which are used to develop communities, targeting low- and moderate-income groups, by providing opportunities like housing and a conducive living environment. For a collection of 10 to 16 shelters, Roversi estimates it’ll close less than $100,000. The project already has about $400,000 allocated for units, management and social services.
“Once a site has been selected, we envision working with our nonprofit social service partners to identify possible residents who are already living in that geographical area,” Roversi said. “As mentioned, we hope to repeat this model in other areas as well.”
Similar projects have been utilized throughout the state. Lieutenant Governor Josh Green pitched the idea in 2019 to the state leaders, envisioning 12 Kauhale throughout the state, one on Maui, one on Kaua‘i, two on the Big Island and eight on O‘ahu.
Hawai‘i is moving away from emergency and transitional shelters and toward a Housing First model which provides housing as a first step to receiving social services and recovery. Having housing, continued support and social services can lead to sustaining stability, according to the Housing Agency’s Consolidated Plan 2020-2025.
The bulk of the CDBG-CV funds ($400,000) will go to the COVID-19 Emergency Housing and Utilities Assistance fund with the Malama Pono Health Services and Family Life Center. For up to three months, the program assists low to moderate-income individuals or families who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus crisis by paying fo rents, mortgages and utilities.
An additional $150,000 was given to the Office of Economic Development for the Kupuna Kare for Farmer Fare program that delivers fresh produce to kupuna, free of charge, by purchasing straight from local farmers.
The remainder of the funds go toward administration and project implementation and oversight on these projects.