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Ten of the 23 shelters at Waiale park are occupied

64-square-foot units holds 2 beds, power and air conditioning

About 10 of 23 temporary Waiale Emergency Housing units are occupied, housing 14 people, at Waiale Park in Wailuku. The Maui News / DAKOTA GROSSMAN photos

WAILUKU — Ten of the 23 temporary housing units in the Waiale Park field currently are occupied and sheltering 14 people, Maui County officials said Monday.

The units, built in May in the park between Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center and Hale Makana O Waiale apartments, are meant to house individuals, couples or families who were displaced as a result of COVID-19.

“When Maui County was first hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, my primary concern was for the well-being of our people,” Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said Monday. “Our unsheltered residents were among the most vulnerable to the impacts of the virus, and we needed to develop a project that would assist this community.”

The temporary housing may be available for the next six to eight months. Sheltered residents also are still working with case managers to seek permanent housing, the county said.

Each unit is 64-square-feet with two beds, air conditioning, electrical outlets and a designated parking space on the park’s premises. County officials said that 24-hour security also is provided, as well as a mobile trailer equipped with showers, bathrooms and laundry services.

A trailer equipped with bathrooms, showers and a laundry unit is available for Waiale Emergency Housing residents. Other services include 24-hour security and air conditioning in each unit.

Each unit cost $4,900 before shipping and add-ons, making the total cost at least $113,000 for the 23 shelters.

Project Wahi Hoomalu o Wailuku was made possible by the National Guard, Maui Fire Department, Departments of Parks and Recreation and Management with emergency funding.

A security guard on site told The Maui News on Monday that things were “usually pretty quiet” with many residents absent most of the day, either working or tending to other obligations. The guard requested anonymity.

Current residents living in the Waiale pallet homes all previously were homeless with existing relationships with outreach workers from the Family Life Center, Maui County spokesman Chris Sugidono said. Case managers help the residents find permanent housing and employment and obtain disability income and housing subsidies.

Meals are catered every day with some paid for by the county from Hale Mahaolu. Other meals are donated by Ka Hale A Ke Ola and Family Life Center.

The Maui Humane Society has provided kennels, pet food, leashes, beds and free veterinary services on a regular basis to residents with pets.

To be eligible for a pallet home, individuals must complete the VI-SPDAT (Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool), which is commonly used to determine an individual’s vulnerability, said Sugidono. Those who are admitted into the units have high scores on the VI-SPDAT, which examines a person’s age in relation to his or her vulnerability for contracting COVID-19, disabilities that may put them at higher risk, and other preexisting health conditions.

“Utilizing our coordinated entry system, those who are unsheltered with the highest scores and with the overlay of the other risk factors were given priority for admission,” Sugidono said. 

Homeless outreach workers administer the VI-SPDAT. The Department of Housing and Human Concerns then identifies the individuals to be given priority, and outreach agencies help the department contact the individual or family to continue the admission process.

“The pallet homes have given these residents not only a safe place to sleep at night with a roof over their head, but also the services and support they need to succeed long-term,” Victorino said. “We have received many positive comments on this project, and we are very grateful to all the neighbors who have embraced them as part of their community.”

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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