Housing homeless veterans was one of the first goals in addressing Hawaii's homeless crisis.
While many remain on the streets or stuck in shelters, there is some good news in the form of an affordable housing development in Kalaeloa that's been made possible thanks to a public-private partnership.
George Souza has been following the project since day one.
"I used to take pictures. I have them from the very first time they dug a hole in the ground," Souza said.
The Army veteran lives next door from the new project at Hale Uhiwai Nalu, a supportive housing complex made up of formerly homeless and at-risk veterans.
A private developer teamed up with the U.S. Veterans Administration and nonprofit US VETS to make the project possible. The program works financially because veterans benefits usually include money for housing.
Now, Cloudbreak Communities is expanding the number of units it has in Hawaii.
An added benefit to tenants of the developments: Services are on-site and readily accessible.
Andrew Dahlburg, manager for homeless programs at the Pacific Island Healthcare Center, said staff members on site offer a wide range of clinic services. "Anything related to helping them get out of homelessness back into full-time jobs or just kind of transition into permanent housing," he said.
Souza said moving there changed his life.
The 63-year-old has struggled with drugs since grade school.
He was in his early 50s when his addiction to crack cost him his job -- and he wound up on the streets.
"The amount of drugs and the years I was using them, I really wasn't getting high anymore," he said. "But the addictive process kept me buying them. I wanted to get into the program because I was motivated to get off the drugs."
Besides having a permanent place to live, Souza also got the help he needed to kick his habit and get back into the workforce.
Cloudbreak Communities development coordinator Kyna-Hayley Vea said the grand opening for phase two of the project is Dec. 8.
The new phase adds additional 50 studio apartments. Each unit ranges between 300 and 375 square feet, and all utilities are included.
The complex also has a community lounge, a gym and additional space for service providers to work one on one with their clients.
"This is a really important component and really what separates us — having support services on site where veterans can immediately access them," said Vea, adding that the development accepts rental housing subsidies.
Souza has been at the development for nearly a decade, and says he's looking forward to providing his new neighbors support as they enter a new phase in their lives.
"I just hope they see this opportunity as a new beginning and they can go ahead and flourish once again," he said.
WANT TO HELP?
The development is looking for furniture donations for the new apartments.
To donate or for more information on how to apply for the project, call 808-682-1949