Affordable housing units are being planned for Pahoa.
Hope Services CEO Brandee Menino said 12 small modular homes will be built at Sacred Heart Catholic Church adjacent to the existing 120-square-foot micro units housing evacuees from last year’s Kilauea eruption.
She said the plan is to keep the micro units in place, and also use them for the general homeless population as evacuees transfer to more permanent housing. Currently, there are 15 people occupying the 20 units.
Previously, the plan was to eventually relocate the micro units to Kona.
“But Pahoa still needs the help, still needs the services, as well,” Menino said.
She said Hope Services already planned to build the affordable housing units at the church before the eruption.
The plan is to complete the small homes, called “efficiency studios,” by spring 2020. They will include a bathroom, kitchen and bathroom. Menino said they are about 570 square feet in size.
The volunteer-built micro units were constructed under the disaster’s emergency declarations.
Menino said a land-use exemption under Gov. David Ige’s emergency declaration for homelessness will be sought.
In this case, the homes will be constructed off site and then transported.
Occupants will be selected from those registered with the nonprofit’s outreach program, with preference given to kupuna.
“Sistah” Clara Alvarez, a supervisor at the micro unit shelters, said there have been two people who have been there since August.
At the site, occupants have access to bathrooms, showers and a pavilion, in addition to a small room and bed.
Food is provided by the Hawaii Island Food Basket and area businesses.
“I feel the heart of Puna,” Alvarez said. “Puna has really come together in this disaster.”
The eruption, which lasted from May until early September, destroyed more than 700 homes and covered nearly 14 square miles.
Menino said there’s no “hard deadline” for converting the micro units into homeless shelters.
She said Hope Services is raising funds for the new small homes.
Donations can be made to https://hopeserviceshawaii.org/donate/.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.