- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii officials are turning a maintenance shed into a temporary homeless shelter for families near a former homeless encampment that was one of the largest in the nation.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced the plans Tuesday.

The 5,000-square-foot building will accommodate 60 people or 15 families at a time, with the goal of connecting families with longer-term transitional or permanent housing. People will be allowed to stay up to 90 days, and the shelter is expected to serve 240 people per year.

Officials aim to open the temporary shelter in February, and it will be open for just two years while the state works on making its overall shelter system more efficient, said Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness.

“We know that in the longer term we have to focus on permanent housing as the ultimate solution,” Morishige said.

The site was chosen after feedback from shelter providers and homeless families, he said.

The site has water and sewer infrastructure and is close to public transportation and social services, Morishige said. Repairs and interior construction will cost about $750,000.

Earlier this year, city and state officials cleared the Honolulu encampment, which had grown to 300 people. They helped more than half of the people move into shelters and permanent housing, officials said. But about 130 homeless people moved into neighboring Kakaako Waterfront Park, Morishige said. About two dozen tents were clustered on a hillside near the site of the new shelter on Tuesday.

Some who were living in the encampment had moved to nearby Kewalo Basin. In the last two weeks service providers were able to house three chronically homeless individuals into homes through the state’s Housing First program, using funds Ige set aside for that purpose when Ige declared a state of emergency in October, Morishige said.

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