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YWCA Wiwo‘ole Project gets Zonta help on Kaua‘i

LIHU‘E — The need for donating the load of household goods was especially pressing on Saturday, said Edie Ignacio Neumiller of the Zonta Club of Kaua‘i.

“There is a tenant to the Wiwo‘ole Project moving in, today,” Neumiller said. “I’ve been following the YWCA of Kaua‘i’s MJ Akuna, who said the Wiwo‘ole Project is always full.”

The Zonta Club of Kaua‘i responded to Neumiller’s plea and arrived with more than a carload of household needs for the family moving into the Wiwo‘ole Project apartment.

“These donations are intended for the individual families,” said Cyndi Ayonon of the Zonta Club.

Following the recent dedication of the project, the Zonta Club of Hanalei contributed the “bigger” items that readied the apartments for occupancy.

The Wiwo‘ole Project is an initiative of the YWCA of Kaua‘i whose long-term goal is to establish bridge housing for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and addressing critical housing issues faced by survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“Survivors of (domestic violence) and (sexual assault) often struggle to secure safe housing due to soaring costs and limited availability,” the YWCA said in a release.

“Currently, our shelter residents have approximately 90 to 120 days of stay, oftentimes insufficient for their needs leading them to homelessness, and or returning to their abuser. This project becomes imperative to alleviate this challenge and accommodate survivors effectively.”

The birth of the Wiwo‘ole Project took off after the YWCA of Kaua‘i learned about a property adjacent to its offices and women’s center that presented opportunity through grandfathered rights for seven residential units.

“We signed a lease and are seeking $1.6 million for purchase and renovation costs,” the YWCA said. “This property features units of various sizes, catering to the divorce needs of survivors. Renovations are underway with the first tenants settling in April.”

The YWCA said the repair cost estimate to date is $450,000 with $210,000 raised by “very generous donors from the Kaua‘i community.” Additionally, the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, through its Kaua‘i Kokua Fund, will match dollar for dollar up to $200,000.

“We adopt a ‘Housing First’ approach, prioritizing housing followed by wrap-around services. Initial services include clinical counseling, support groups, and financial education workshops,” the YWCA said.

“Additional staffing will enhance services, including ongoing case management and assistance with permanent housing. Duration of participation is approximately 12 months, emphasizing bridging to long term housing.”

The self-perpetuating model relies on rent from occupied units to cover lease payments until the property purchase. Housing and Urban Development guidelines determine rent amounts, catering to lower-income clients eligible for assistance. Income from rented units post-purchase will fund maintenance, repair and staffing expenses.

The proximity to YWCA offices ensures lower overheads, improved security and community connection.

“The Wiwo‘ole Project marks a significant step in supporting domestic violence and sexual assault survivors and their keiki,” said YWCA Executive Director Renae Hamilton-Cambeilh in a YWCA newsletter.

“By providing safe, supportive environments and essential services, we empower survivors on their healing journey. With community support, this program will create lasting impact, breaking the generational cycle of violence and fostering resilience.”

For more information, visit the YWCA website at www.ywcakauai.org/thewiwooleproject.
Source: The Garden Island

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