Once-Homeless Families Move into Sand Island’s New Kahauiki Village
Government, private companies and volunteers built a plantation-style community that welcomed its first families into their new homes on Friday, Jan. 12.
Photos: Aaron K. Yoshino
Parents smiled and shook their heads while children shrieked with happiness as they moved into Kahauiki Village at Sand Island, a $12 million project that represents an extraordinary partnership of people and resources.
Dalgene Ka‘auwai looked at her 5-year-old grandson playing happily on the bed in the living room of their new one-bedroom house, smiled, nodded at him and said, “This is Malachi’s hale.”
Ka‘auwai, her husband and the grandson they are raising are among the many families who found themselves suddenly—and completely unexpectedly—without a house.
Both of them work: He’s in construction with cyclical layoffs and she’s a cashier. They moved out of their rented home when her husband got laid off and the community around their rental grew increasingly unsafe. “It could happen to anybody,” she says. “My last straw was somebody kept taking things from our garage.”
They used their savings to pay bills while looking for housing until they linked up with Family Promise of Hawai‘i. “Malachi has asthma so we started staying in hotel rooms so we could set up his machine,” Ka‘auwai says.
They were among the first 30 families to move into Kahauiki Village, a project built on 13 acres of state land as the vision of business entrepreneur and aio founder Duane Kurisu (aio is the parent company of HONOLULU Magazine). Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell praised Kurisu for bringing so many people together to volunteer, and both politicians credited each other for taking the project from groundbreaking to move-in in a matter of months.
By the final phase of the project, the community will include 153 modular homes with more than 600 residents. The units were refurbished after being used to help Japanese earthquake victims in March 2011.
Rent is $900 a month for two-bedroom homes and $725 a month for one-bedroom homes, which makes them half the market rate.
Housing specialist Ashleigh Loa, of Family Promise of Hawai‘i, explained that the organization’s mission is to create sustainable independence for families, helping them with necessities, financial literary and case management to get back on their feet.
“It gives our families a sense of security because they don’t have to worry that they’ll have to leave in a year,” Loa says, as with transitional programs.
Nohealani Ching moved in with her three children: ages 9, 8 and 3. She couldn’t stop smiling about the new home and kept thanking people for helping them move in. “I’m a single mother, so double the work,” she explained with a smile.
For the families, it was the politicians, volunteers and Kurisu—the savvy businessman trying to stay in the back row—who gave them further proof that they were right to hold on to hope during their toughest times.
Ka‘auwai said: “The way I see it is there are people still out there that show what Hawai‘i and aloha are all about. There are people still out there who care.”
After reading about the homeless crisis in the April 2014 issue of HONOLULU Magazine, Kurisu set to work to make a difference and enlisted many people to help. “This is what can happen when Hawai‘i puts its heads together,” he said.