- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 27, 2018

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - Hawaii County said it’s looking to establish a Hilo counterpart to the proposed Village 9 homeless site in Kailua-Kona, though plans are still in preliminary stages.

An executive assistant to Mayor Harry Kim said last week that the county is in the initial stages of acquiring access to two adjoining land parcels at the old airport in Hilo, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

The county is looking into erecting tents and domes at the site, Roy Takemoto said.

“It would start off as a temporary right of entry in order for us to expeditiously get access to the property and to give us time to figure out if we want to be there for the long term and if it’s appropriate,” Takemoto said. “We’d keep a buffer to the highway and see what we could do to clean up that area and make it a more sanitary place.”

Takemoto said the land is largely “unencumbered vacant land” where many homeless already camp. The land is owned by the state and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

Takemoto said the county is hoping to secure capital improvement funds from the Legislature to pay for the project. Otherwise, it plans to stretch a $25,000 allocation promised by the state, also planned to be used to establish Village 9 in Kona.

“A permanent facility, if we really need one, would probably be somewhere else,” Takemoto said. “But the idea hopefully is that we’d be able to absorb the homeless and then (help them) get into other existing permanent shelters or permanent housing that exists elsewhere.”

He said they hope to have the Hilo project started within about three months. Within a year, he said the county would like to have “a clear idea of where a permanent (Hilo) site would be.”

A Hilo church also is working to start a homeless site in Pahoa. Hilo Missionary Church wants to establish a multiuse facility site.

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Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

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