Progress on Solutions for the Unhoused
By Jack Kiyonaga, Reporter
A newly-formed organization is dedicated to addressing Molokai’s unhoused population, and is seeking community feedback on their proposal to create long term housing solutions.
Led by President Leola Kahalewai, Hui Kaiaulu is a Molokai-based group formed this past December.
Currently, Hui Kaiaulu is searching for a seven to 10-acre plot to construct permanent homes out of shipping containers, explained Kahalewai. Recipients of this housing would farm the land as well. Presently, Kahalewai is engaged in talks with Molokai Ranch about utilizing some of their properties in Kaunakakai.
Molokai’s estimated homeless population sits at about 25 people. However, many more Molokai residents live as “hidden homeless.” Hidden homeless are those who are housing-insecure, often including vulnerable groups like youth, the sick or kupuna.
At a meeting last Tuesday with Gov. Josh Green’s office, Kahalewai and Hui Kaiaulu were given official support in their mission. The governor’s office will “help start us off,” said Kahalewai, but the intention is eventually for a nonprofit to run the project.
Kahalewai also said she had spoken with Senator Lynn DeCoite, who is “a hundred and 10 percent” supportive. Now, Kahalewai explained, “we just need to look for the land.”
A career in home healthcare aid inspired Kahalewai to work with the homeless.
“I felt like if I can take care of my elders, I can take care of these people who are on the road also,” she said.
Kahalewai is already engaged with the unhoused population on Molokai. She often goes to Malama Park to distribute food as well as dispose of trash.
“I’ve been going down and checking on them, talking story with them, keeping the place clean…they’re all excited”, explained Kahalewai.
A March meeting on Molokai with Blanche McMillian, an advisor to Gov. Josh Green, helped to spur on Hui Kaiaulu. McMillian runs Hui Mahi’ai ‘Aina on Oahu, which has given permanent housing to over 60 people. McMillian hopes Molokai will be the first island to create a housing program like Hui Mahi’ai ‘Aina.
“Molokai is going to be the eye opener for all islands…Molokai will be the first,” said McMillian.
McMillian also explained that while the project is modeled off her own organization, it will be run by members of the Molokai community.
“Molokai people will be responsible for everything that’s brought there,” said McMillian. “Molokai runs their own.”
Hui Kaiaulu will be holding a community meeting to gather feedback on their project on June 23 at 6 p.m. at the Mitchell Pauole Center. Hui Kaiaulu has already received input from 42 Molokai residents in the form of surveys but hopes to field more comments and concerns at the meeting.