‘E KOMO MAI’

One man’s vi­sion for a plan­ta­tion-style com­mu­nity for home­less work­ing fam­i­lies be­comes re­al­ity with the open­ing of Ka­hauiki Vil­lage

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Nakaso dnakaso@starad­ver­tiser.com

Busi­ness­man Duane Kurisu’s vi­sion to pro­vide per­ma­nent homes for home­less, work­ing fam­i­lies in a plan­ta­tion-style com­mu­nity be­came re­al­ity Fri­day when the first of 30 fam­i­lies moved into the first phase of Kurisu’s Ka­hauiki Vil­lage, made out of pre­fab­ri­cated homes that once housed vic­tims of Japan’s 2011 tsunami.

The 11.3-acre “vil­lage” sits be­tween Sand Is­land and Keehi La­goon Park on the makai edge of the H-1 free­way viaduct, which un­til four months ago was home to one of Oahu’s most dan­ger­ous and en­trenched home­less en­camp­ments be­fore sher­iff’s deputies cleared out 120 peo­ple and dozens of dogs.

Even­tu­ally 153 fam­i­lies — or nearly 630 peo­ple — will live in 153 one- and two-bed­room units at Ka­hauiki Vil­lage that will rent for $725 and $900 per month. An on-site preschool and day care cen­ter are ex­pected to open in the next few weeks.

“It’s go­ing to be amaz­ing,” Kaim­brea Vance, 31, said be­fore she moved into her one-bed­room unit

Fri­day. “It’s go­ing to give my son a fair chance at life.”

Be­fore her son, Kainoa, was born 11 months ago, and be­fore she got sober, Vance had been liv­ing “un­der an um­brella over a chair” in the Ala Moana area, abus­ing al­co­hol and mar­i­juana.

Now Vance said she’s been clean for 18 months, works four days a week “rolling bur­ri­tos” for a restau­rant and hopes to take ad­van­tage of jobs be­ing of­fered to Ka­hauiki Vil­lage res­i­dents at United Laun­dry Ser­vices, Y. Hata & Co. Ltd. and Lion Cof­fee.

“I want to work my way up and have a fu­ture now,” Vance told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The In­sti­tute for Hu­man Ser­vices will op­er­ate Ka­hauiki Vil­lage and pro­vide so­cial ser­vice as­sis­tance for the res­i­dents. IHS also runs the nearby Hale Mauli­ola home­less “nav­i­ga­tion cen­ter” made out of re­fur­bished ship­ping con­tain­ers on Sand Is­land, along with the state’s largest emer­gency home­less shel­ters.

“All our fam­i­lies (at Ka­hauiki Vil­lage) are lo­cal Hawaii res­i­dents with young chil­dren who have passed through one of many fam­ily shel­ters across Oahu and who have been work­ing hard to get back on their feet and on a path to­ward per­ma­nent hous­ing,” said Con­nie Mitchell, IHS’ ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. “All our fam­i­lies are led by work­ing par­ents who are mem­bers of our lo­cal com­mu­nity.

Among them are a barista in a cof­fee shop, wait­ers at the restau­rants we dine at and con­struc­tion work­ers for our Honolulu rail, to name a few. Work­ing is an in­te­gral part of their lives.”

The state trans­ferred the land be­tween Sand Is­land and Keehi La­goon Park to the city un­der Gov. David Ige’s se­ries of emer­gency procla­ma­tions to ad­dress the coun­try’s high­est per capita rate of home­less­ness.

The city then leased the land for Ka­hauiki Vil­lage at a cost of $1 per year for 10 years, with an op­tion to ex­tend it for 10 more years.

The pre­fab­ri­cated units came from Japan af­ter Kurisu helped or­ga­nize the “Aloha for Japan” fundrais­ing ef­fort in Hawaii, which raised more than $1 mil­lion for vic­tims of the 2011 Ja­panese earth­quake, tsunami and nu­clear dis­as­ter.

The city ex­pects to pro­vide $4 mil­lion worth of sewer lines and potable water for the en­tire project, which is es­ti­mated to cost $12 mil­lion.

But much of the work is be­ing do­nated by pri­vate busi­nesses.

“They stepped up,” Mayor Kirk Cald­well said. Kurisu is “go­ing to have a lot of chits to pay in the fu­ture,” Cald­well joked.

Ige said, “Duane was very per­sis­tent in get­ting their par­tic­i­pa­tion in this project.

Duane said this is the first time ever that he’s been in­volved with a project where no one who he asked for help said no. This truly is such an ex­am­ple of when we work to­gether we can do great things.”

Ige and Cald­well poured praise on Kurisu, founder and chair­man of the aio Group, who also serves on the board of di­rec­tors of Oahu Publi­ca­tions Inc., par­ent com­pany of the Star-Advertiser.

“Ka­hauiki Vil­lage is re­ally Duane’s vi­sion for what it used to be like on the plan­ta­tions where re­ally the com­mu­nity came to­gether to pro­vide all of the nec­es­sary in­gre­di­ents to a happy, suc­cess­ful and thriv­ing com­mu­nity,” Ige said. “Duane wanted to make sure we had ac­cess to child care. Duane wanted to make sure we had ac­cess to a preschool, all fun­da­men­tally im­por­tant for fam­i­lies to be suc­cess­ful.”

Cald­well said, “I wish we could clone Duane and make like another 15 of him be­cause we could re­ally re­solve the home­less prob­lem.”

But Kurisu on Fri­day chose to spread the credit for Ka­hauiki Vil­lage.

“To­gether, what we have built is the foun­da­tion for a com­mu­nity that’s the first of its kind in the United States and a clean-en­ergy (mi­cro­grid) power sys­tem that’s the first of its kind in the world,” Kurisu said. “Con­grat­u­la­tions, Hawaii. This is what can hap­pen when Hawaii puts their heads to­gether with heart, with mind, with re­sources, without any ex­pec­ta­tion for per­sonal gain.

“We wel­come the fam­i­lies here to­day, and we say to you, with all of our hearts, ‘E komo mai.’”

Con­grat­u­la­tions, Hawaii. This is what can hap­pen when Hawaii puts their heads to­gether with heart, with mind, with re­sources, without any ex­pec­ta­tion for per­sonal gain.”

Duane Kurisu Lo­cal busi­ness­man who came up with the idea for Ka­hauiki Vil­lage

DEN­NIS ODA / DODA@STARAD­VER­TISER.COM

Fam­i­lies got to see their new homes at Ka­hauiki Vil­lage for the first time Fri­day, and some of the chil­dren were so over­come with emo­tion that they started to cry. Pic­tured from left are Kanai Sa­ni­atan, 3; his mom, No­healani Ching; Faa­mama Vaesa’u Jr., 7; and Faa­mama’s sis­ter Sha­neeyah, 9. Ching and the Vaesa’u fam­ily are close be­cause both fam­i­lies used to live in the Fam­ily Prom­ise of Hawaii shel­ter in Kailua.

PHO­TOS BY DEN­NIS ODA / DODA@STARAD­VER­TISER.COM

The chil­dren of two fam­i­lies that are mov­ing into Ka­hauiki Vil­lage showed Fri­day how ex­cited they were in front of their new homes. From left are Grace Sa­ni­atan, 8; Faa­mama Vaesa’u Jr., 7; Kanai Sa­ni­atan, 3; Parou­sia Vaesa’u, 6 (in red top); Sha­neeyah Vaesa’u, 9 (in white top); and Ku­umaka Sa­ni­atan, 9. Be­hind the chil­dren are par­ents Faa­mama Vaesa’u and his wife, Tinu Vaesa’u; and No­healani Ching, mother to the Sa­ni­atan chil­dren.

Kanai Sa­ni­atan, left, and his brother Ku­umaka tried out their new beds for the first time.

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