After years of waiting, a hygiene center (and safe haven) opens in Iwilei


HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Two-and-a-half years after the city announced plans for a hygiene center for the homeless in Iwilei, it’s finally up and running.

The Punawai Rest Stop is now open every day, from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. In a neighborhood that’s been called ‘Ground Zero’ for Oahu’s homeless crisis, the need is clear.

“A lot of these folks, despite their living conditions, they’re trying to keep their jobs,” says the district’s city councilman, Joey Manahan.

On Tuesday, community leaders gathered on Kuwili Street to celebrate the long-awaited opening. The rest stop is the first phase of a multi-million dollar project that will eventually provide health care and permanent supportive housing for homeless in the area.

Staff at the center expect to serve about 100 people every day. In addition to restrooms and showers, there are also laundry facilities, lockers and a place to pick up your mail.

Greg Payton heads up Mental Health Kokua, the agency tasked with running the center.

“We do not allow drugs, alcohol, food onsite. Our staff has been trained to de-escalate and manage folks,” said Payton.

Visitors will be able to lock up their things while taking a shower. Kennels are also available for people with pets. In the meantime, outreach workers will be on-site to connect people with services and housing.

Outside the facility, Hawaii News Now found Naomi Mokuahi, who seemed eager to know more.

“It’s difficult out here for women,” said Mokuahi. “I’d consider going down there and using it.”

Some businesses are excited, too — especially the staff at HonBlue, who hose down their sidewalks on a daily basis to get rid of urine and feces.

“I’m glad it’s open,” said Larry Heim. “Our homeless population, they need a safe harbor. A variety of safe harbors. Our sidewalks are not those safe harbors. So if the city or any other government agency can help out by providing services close to where this population is, that’s a good thing.”

Outreach workers, along with HPD, have started handing out information cards to let people know the Punawai Rest Stop is open, as well as the services it provides.

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