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Strengthening Hawai‘i’s Communities
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Fresh Start for Families at Kealaula

A new Līhuʻe housing complex offers a springboard for families transitioning out of homelessness.


The fight against homelessness on Kauaʻi got a big boost in late 2020, with the opening of Kealaula on Pua Loke, a 28-unit complex with one-bedroom homes and studios for Kauaʻi families who are experiencing homelessness and willing to accept social services. Residents pay significantly reduced rent, with the goal of moving into permanent housing.

“Kealaula means ‘dawning of a new light,’ says Sharon Graham, the housing director for Women In Need. This nonprofit provides Kealaula with support services for residents, including counseling, childcare, overnight security, financial education, and nutrition workshops.

Kealaula is the result of multiple county and state agencies’ collaboration. The complex is located on the county bus line, near Kukui Grove mall, doctors’ offices, and government buildings. Residences have full kitchens, landscaped yards, and painted trim. But, after their construction, plenty of gaps remained to be filled. That’s where Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF) came in.

By supplementing public projects with private funds, HCF can have a big impact. “We focus on strategic partnerships between government and philanthropy to address critical problems in our community,” says Robin Pratt, who works to administer HCF’s donor-advised funds. “Kealaula is a great example.”

HCF donors provided Kealaula with money for counseling, childcare, and a fence around the property so resident children can run freely. Last Christmas, one donor gave each household a microwave. “We opened up a Santa’s workshop where families could come shop for free and take a microwave on their way out,” says Graham.

Currently around 85 adults and children call Kealaula home. Within this supportive community, seemingly insurmountable situations have turned into successes. In just two years, 42 households—a total of 102 individuals—have transitioned into permanent housing.

One resident had previously lost custody of six children due to substance abuse. Pregnant with her seventh, she wanted to stay sober and keep her baby. She needed somewhere safe to live. “We decided to give her a shot,” says Graham. “She went through the program, got her life together and got a good job. She recently got married and moved into affordable housing.”

The stability of Kealaula also enabled a single father to hold down a job and qualify for HUD housing. He dropped by Graham’s office recently to express his joy over buying groceries without an EBT card for the first time. Graham loves sharing such moments with residents. “They come in when they’re struggling or when they’re proud because they did something they never imagined they could do,” she says. “It’s inspiring.”

Did You Know: Hawaiʻi Community Foundation’s donor-advised funds are a great way to support local causes you care about. For more information, please contact Robin Pratt at rpratt@hcf-hawaii.org.

Visit hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/investing-community-wellbeing to learn more.

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