Honolulu’s iconic Aloha Tower will turn purple this week as two important homelessness-related events take place.

The tower will be lit up on Wednesday and Thursday to observe Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, which is typically held the week before Thanksgiving and is meant to raise awareness about the pressing issues of hunger and homelessness, as well as poverty. In Hawai‘i, there are an estimated 6,458 homeless individuals statewide on any given night, including more than half who are unsheltered and sleeping on the sidewalks, beaches, in their vehicles, or in other areas unsuitable for human habitation.

Wednesday and Thursday are also the dates of the statewide 2020 Homeless Awareness Virtual Conference, Moving Forward Together: Our Resilient Community. The conference is sponsored jointly by the State of Hawai‘i; City & County of Honolulu; County of Hawai‘i; County of Kaua‘i; County of Maui; and Hawai‘i’s two Continua of Care: Partners in Care and Bridging the Gap.

“This week is a time to recognize the hard work of all who work so hard to end homelessness throughout the year,” said Scott Morishige, Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness. “Despite the adversity of the pandemic, our homelessness system has transitioned nearly 3,400 individuals into permanent housing between March and September. Our community is resilient and has pulled together to keep a focus on permanent housing and helping the most vulnerable among us.”

“2020 has been a difficult year for everyone in Hawai‘i, the United States, and around the world,” said Laura Thielen, executive director of Partners in Care. “As the year comes to a close and we reflect on the issue of homelessness and hunger, let us remember how we have come together in so many ways during this pandemic, and acknowledge that we do have the ability to overcome some of the issues that have plagued our community for years.

“Despite the pandemic, we have gotten food to our neighbors on our beaches and on our streets, we have housed those who have been homeless for years, and we have shown compassion to our community. We are stronger than we realize and together we can make a better community for all. Let’s continue the amazing things that we have started during 2020 and carry them into the new year.”

“Despite a worldwide pandemic, we still saw the Aloha Spirit alive and well in Hawai‘i, where people didn’t hesitate to lend a helping hand to those in need,” said Brandee Menino, chief executive officer of HOPE Services Hawai‘i and chair of Bridging the Gap. “Our island community has been incredibly resilient this year, and I’m pleased that we continue to look out for each other. During this week and through the holidays, let us all continue to keep our most vulnerable residents in mind.”

To find out more about Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, please visit

To find out more about the 2020 Homeless Awareness Virtual Conference, visit The conference is free, and will feature keynote speeches from Gov. David Ige, Mayor Kirk Caldwell, and CEO Nan Roman from the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The newly released Hawai‘i Broadband Strategic Plan 2020 provides a fresh look at ways to strengthen Hawai‘i’s broadband infrastructure and programs at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is making clear how dependent Hawai‘i is on broadband connectivity for education, health, livelihood and economic prosperity.

The Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT), with support from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) and the Office of Planning (OP), published the plan, which is an update to the original Hawai‘i Broadband Strategic Plan released in 2012.

The 45-page document provides information and a framework for the creation of policies and programs to address the challenges faced in meeting the state’s broadband goals.

Since the original plan was published in 2012, the broadband landscape has changed dramatically. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on Hawai’i’s digital divide as stay-at-home orders required people to distance learn, seek healthcare and work from home.

“Broadband connectivity is the critical infrastructure that builds resilience and ties all of Hawaii’s residents to the global economy -- from businesses in our urban centers to remote workers and content creators in our rural communities,” said Gov. David Ige. “Broadband and digital equity are the foundations upon which we can build a Hawai‘i for the future. I would like to extend my thanks to the many stakeholders who collaborated to create this new Broadband Strategic Plan.”

“Due to the pandemic, there is even greater recognition that Hawai‘i’s competitiveness in the global digital economy, educational exchange, and digital competency is reliant on broadband infrastructure,” said DBEDT Director Mike McCartney. “Hawai‘i’s link to the rest of the world relies on transpacific fiber optic cables. Broadband is how the Internet traffic flows throughout the entire state from interisland fiber, terrestrial fiber, wireless services and rural connectivity This will be fundamental for Hawai‘i’s economic diversification and expansion.”

Burt Lum, DBEDT’s Broadband Strategy Officer, said, “All of Hawai’i’s residents need to benefit from broadband in order for the state to thrive in the 21st century. This plan seeks to outline the steps to achieve digital equity throughout the state of Hawai’i.”

Download the Hawaii Broadband Strategic Plan Update:

Today, the Department of Community Services and the Mayor’s Office of Housing celebrated the construction completion of the Pūnāwai facility and its key successes to providing care, compassion, and recovery to persons experiencing homelessness on Oʻahu.

Pūnāwai is a four-story building in the heart of ʻIwilei designed to address the comprehensive needs of Honolulu’s homeless community, and it offers a diverse range of support. Named after the healing waters that run under the Kūwili Street location, Pūnāwai brings together community-based partners through a hygiene center (ground floor), clinic (mezzanine), respite (second floor), and permanent supportive housing component (third floor).

Located at 431 Kūwili Street in ʻIwilei, the Pūnāwai blessing included City officials, with community advocates, staff and guests participating virtually. In addition to dedicating the building, the second anniversary of the Pūnāwai Rest Stop was celebrated with its operating partner Mental Health Kokua. The Rest Stop serves 2,500 unduplicated individuals each year, placing more than 100 people into housing annually, delivering more than 6,000 case management contacts and offering showers, toilet access, laundry services, veterinary checks for pets, and postal service.

Pūnāwai Rest Stop has been instrumental in placing individuals into permanent housing, as well as providing employment and treatment. As of September 2020, 50 individuals have found employment through the services offered at Pūnāwai, and 97 people have entered into substance abuse treatment.

Hale Pūnāwai located on the top floor of Pūnāwai will provide permanent supportive housing. In partnership with Steadfast Housing Development Corporation, the City anticipates leasing all 21 units by the end of the year.

Finally, the Pūnāwai Clinic started renovation work to build out the clinic in the spring of 2020. However, efforts were pulled in other directions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pūnāwai Clinic and Respite is anticipated to open for modified service in January 2021, with the full clinic anticipated to open in the summer of 2021.

Videos of Hale Pūnāwai can be found using the following link:

For use of the video, please courtesy: City & County of Honolulu.

In addition to celebrating the completion of the construction of Pūnāwai, Mayor Caldwell and his team shared the City’s achievements of the Housing First program. The City funds 315 Housing First vouchers that are contracted in three increments.

Mayor Caldwell reported that 326 persons have received Housing First services from December 2014 to 2019 via Increment I contracted to the Institute of Human Services.

Of the 326 clients, 137 have exited (42 percent). As of December 2019, 189 people were enrolled in the program.

The majority of clients who have exited to permanent housing, entered the Housing First program in year one and exited in year four or five, suggesting the time required to achieve housing stability is three to four years.

Clients reported improvements in mental and physical health.

Overall, 92 percent of all Housing First clients have not returned to homelessness.

“When I came into office in 2013, addressing homelessness and its root causes became a key priority of our administration,” said Mayor Caldwell. “Projects such as the Pūnāwai facility, Housing First rental assistance programs, Hale Mauliola navigation shelter, mobile hygiene trailers, and with the pandemic, Temporary Quarantine and Isolation Centers, are some of the many tools the City developed and implemented to assist those most in need by providing them a hand up. These key initiatives, which are guided by our local upbringing of helping others with compassion, accountability and aloha, are only possible with community buy-in and the support of the City Council leadership.”

“As the Councilmember whose district contains the most public housing units on island and which has been impacted most by persons experiencing homelessness, it would have been easy to have redirected a facility like Pūnāwai to another neighborhood,” Councilmember Joey Manahan said. “Our community decided that instead of ignoring the problems, we would face them head on and identify best practices from throughout the world and bring them home to help our neighbors in need. The Pūnāwai Rest Stop is an example of a Seattle model, and I thank the Mayor for embracing my concepts and making them happen.”

“Understanding each individual’s story and journey to homelessness helps us as a society to assist the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Director Pam Witty-Oakland, Department of Community Services. “Pūnāwai offers physical, emotional and mental support in the form of compassion, counseling and basic human needs. The efforts of the Pūnāwai programs will result in housing, a reduction in substance abuse, and overall improvements of lifestyle.

“The Pūnāwai Rest Stop, the Housing First program, and similar programs also ease the strain on our emergency rooms and inpatient hospitals throughout O‘ahu.”

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