Press "Enter" to skip to content

Salvation Army to open 25-bed homeless shelter in Hilo

HILO, Hawai‘i — The Salvation Army will open a homeless shelter in downtown Hilo this summer.

The shelter is scheduled to open in late August and will be next to The Salvation Army Hilo Temple Corps., 219 Ponahawai St., for 12 overnight hours a day.

The shelter will be opened under an agreement reached between the state, Hawai‘i County and The Salvation Army Hawaiian and Pacific Island Division.

“The Salvation Army Hawai‘i has proven to be a trusted source of food, shelter and care for those experiencing homelessness across our island,” said Mayor Mitch Roth in a statement. “Through this partnership, we aim to bolster our services in downtown Hilo by providing much-needed overnight respite where houseless individuals can access safe and reliable care.”

The Salvation Army shelter will begin with 25 beds, providing overnight stays on a first-come, first-served basis each night. The new Malama ‘Ohana Kitchen mobile trailer will provide meals, and there will be portable toilets on-site.

According to Sam LeMar of The Salvation Army, coordinator for the Hilo shelter, a staff of case workers, shelter attendants and administrative staff will work together to provide care that meets the physical and emotional needs of those who use the facility.

“Our intention is to open up our space to collaborators, partnerships and serv­ice providers to help us provide long-term housing and care solutions,” LeMar said. “We want to make sure we are doing the best we can to serve the needs of our community.”

There has been a growing need for a shelter in downtown Hilo. Makeshift homeless encampments have popped up all over the downtown area, frustrating merchants and visitors.

Recently, more than a dozen tents and tarps were set up off Ponahawai Street by the Alenaio Stream Flood Control Project.

The area had been fenced off as a staging area for construction vehicles that were being used during the Keawe Street Rehabilitation Project, which led to dozens of people putting up tents and tarps in the mostly hidden area.

However, the fencing recently was removed and the lot has been vacant since June 7, causing several downtown businesses to inquire about the encampment and plans for the lot.

According to the Hawai‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation, the land was acquired through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which limits what it can be used for.

“We are working with the administration, Office of Housing, the Downtown Improvement Association and Council member Jenn Kagiwada on how to best utilize space,” Parks and Recreation Director Maurice Messina said previously. “Ideally, we’d use some of the area for recreation and also add parking spaces, within approved limits, to benefit downtown visitors.”

While the future of the area is in limbo, Kagiwada is hopeful it can be used as a connecting space that brings together Hilo Bayfront Trails and downtown Hilo, ensuring the land is utilized within the terms of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“We’re still talking to see what we can do, but we want it to look as nice as possible. The area is special, so we hope to make it more inviting and connected with Hilo Bayfront Trails,” Kagiwada said. “However, with the encampment there, I have asked the administration to delay removing anyone until we have this 25-bed overnight shelter open at the Salvation Army, so they will have a place to go.”

While 25 beds won’t accommodate everyone, the nightly shelter will be utilized as a transitional place, or a “first step,” for people working to connect with organizations that may have resources for their specific needs, or information about a permanent shelter or low-income housing.

“This will be the first human touch, so they can network with service providers to meet their needs, like medicine, mental health, housing and employment,” LeMar said. “For the Salvation Army, we say, ‘Soup, Soap and Salvation.’ People are more than welcome to get soup and soap, and if they want to, they can also participate in the many community services we have that provide help and hope.”

According to Kagiwada, there is still an ongoing search for a spot near downtown Hilo that could be used for a small, communal living space for houseless individuals through the Kauhale Initiative, which is an effort by the state Office on Homelessness and Housing Solutions.

“We need the community and organizations to come together quickly, because these are being implemented statewide, and if we wait, we drop lower on the list and it will take longer to develop,” Kagiwada said. “Unfortunately, people will be unhappy at any location, but this offer through the state is the best we’re going to get if we want to truly tackle homelessness in Hilo.”

The Salvation Army shelter will open with funding provided by the state and county, according to a press release.
Source: The Garden Island

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply