KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — Hawaii County has closed a temporary homeless encampment in Kailua-Kona.

Camp Kikaha in the Old Kona Industrial Area had been open for more than seven months, West Hawaii Today reported Tuesday.

Lance Niimi, executive assistant to Mayor Harry Kim, said the camp was never meant to be permanent.

It opened under an emergency proclamation in August by Kim. The proclamation — which has expired — allowed the camp to operate outside of standard zoning, building and fire codes.

Linda Vandervoort, a volunteer who handled day-to-day management of Camp Kikaha, said a lack of running water and fire hazards due to the canopies and pallets used to set up and separate individual living units factored heavily into the decision to shut the camp down.

“We’ve been saying for months that this camp, everything as it is, isn’t designed to be permanent, isn’t sustainable to be permanent, and we stretched it out as long as we could,” Vandervoort said. “It would take quite a bit of work to bring us up to code and make this as safe as it could be, and we were just not able to do that.”

Camp Kikaha served 51 homeless people. Vandervoort said as of Tuesday, 17 had been placed in emergency housing. Two went to permanent housing. Three residents rejoined family members and six homeless found jobs.

She said the county’s shifting focus to more permanent solutions — such as the proposed, long-term housing site off Kealakehe Parkway called Village 9 — along with a sister site in Hilo and potentially Pahoa, also played a role in closing the camp.

The state recently granted Hawaii County $184,000 for the development of a master plan and an environmental assessment at the Village 9 site after striking a deal with the county to transfer 15 acres (6 hectares) of state land for use as a permanent homeless site.


Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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