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Another tiny home project breaks ground to get more people off the streets

By Kristen Consillio

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    KEALAKEHE, Hawaii (KITV) — When Shoni Kaeo fell on hard times, she found herself in an unfamiliar place.

“It’s been very life changing because you don’t realize how close to homelessness that you can actually be,” she said. “It’s like a paycheck away.”

Homeless for the first time in recent years, the 53-year-old didn’t know how she would survive.

“If you’ve never been, you don’t know how to all of a sudden have emergency life skills out there,” Kaeo said. “I don’t think I would’ve been able to survive that.”

But today, Kaeo spends much of her days gardening, taking enrichment classes and helping out her neighbors at her tiny home community in Kalaeloa — a model that’s being replicated throughout the state under an emergency proclamation.

The first kauhale or tiny home village broke ground today on the Big Island to address the state’s growing homeless and housing crisis.

The project is based on the same model as the village in Kalaeloa, which also has mental health services, workforce training and onsite medical care.

“The average length of life for a person who does not have shelter — does not have a roof over their head — is 53 as opposed to over 80 if you are housed, so people are losing about three decades of life,” Gov. Josh Green told KITV4. “And every year about 300 people pass away in the streets, or without a home. It’s heartbreaking and it’s immoral to not take care of people.”

The latest kauhale known as Kukuiola is being built in Kealakehe, starting with an emergency shelter and then 48 permanent tiny homes.

It’s a critical component of Gov. Josh Green’s strategy to get more people off the streets and into communities that can help them develop a sense of belonging and ‘ohana.

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