HONOLULU — Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell wants to convert a facility for abuse victims into a homeless shelter.
The $5.5 million women’s shelter has barely been used since it opened, Hawaii News Now reported Monday. In all of 2017, only 13 people sought help there, leaving most of the rooms empty.
Caldwell said converting the 20-room Makiki facility, which costs about $400,000 a year to operate, wouldn’t require much work or approval.
“We have an asset,” he said. “The Family Justice Center is just not being filled as we hoped it would have been and so that is the perfect place to house some of our homeless folks who really need it.”
City prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro opened the center in November 2016, describing it as a one-stop shop for victims and a place where they can get services and a secure place to live.
Advocates say the reason it hasn’t been used much is because its tenants must follow strict rules that are impractical.
In order to stay at shelter, victims have to be willing to testify against their abusers. They also aren’t allowed to leave without an escort and the center is only open to single women.
“The city could make an enormous difference by modifying the design of the program so that it’s not so much like a prison,” said Nanci Kreidman of the Domestic Violence Action Center.
Kreidman said her organization has referred victims there, but many refused to stay.
Currently, there are three people staying at the site, according to the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office.
The shelter’s requirements contributed to Kaneshiro changing the name of the facility in 2017 to the Prosecutor’s Safe House. The converted apartment building is also a focal point for the federal government, which is investigating Kaneshiro’s office over the project.
Multiple witnesses connected to the center have been summoned to testify before a federal grand jury about questionable practices with the purchase and renovation of the building.
Information from: KGMB-TV, http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/