- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Honolulu officials are abandoning a plan to convert a Hilo Hattie store into an emergency homeless shelter.

City Manager Roy Amemiya said Tuesday that the city decided not to bid on the building in a bankruptcy auction because of financial concerns.

It would have cost $7.6 million to acquire the site, and the program could have run up a $43 million operating deficit over the life of the 24-year lease, city official said.

The proposed space would have included up to 800 cots. But housing so many homeless people in one place is not manageable, city officials said.

“We felt that Hilo Hattie wasn’t a good investment,” said Jesse Broder Van Dyke, spokesman for Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “We also heard from service providers who didn’t think it was a good idea.”

The city is exploring other sites to build temporary shelters. They’re making progress on a temporary modular housing facility on Sand Island, which they’re expecting to open in the fall. The Department of Facility Maintenance has graded the site, trimmed trees and vegetation, and installed an erosion silt fence, according to a news release. It’s working on building the infrastructure for underground utilities and plans to pave the site while the city negotiates with top bidders to install the modular housing units.

The Sand Island facility, in an industrial part of Honolulu near a wastewater treatment plant, public parks and beaches, is expected to house 75 to 100 residents. Children will not be allowed.

An additional vacant lot on the leeward side of Oahu is being considered for more modular housing units.

The city also is considering more sites to convert apartments into affordable units for its Housing First program, which places chronically homeless individuals in housing.


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