Members of the Homestead Job Corps in Anahola chill at the Anahola Marketplace cafe pavilion, one of Homestead Community Development Corporation’s project locations.
ANAHOLA — Regardless of eligibility for leases on state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands parcels, unemployed Kaua‘i residents can participate in a five-month employment program created by a nonprofit in Anahola.
The idea is to help boost the economy while engaging in homestead community stewardship projects and earning a monthly income at the same time.
Homestead Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit founded in 2009 dedicated to affordable housing and economic development on or near DHHL properties, was awarded a $200,000 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act grant from the county to fund their Rise to Work — Homestead Job Corps program in July.
HCDC CEO Robin Danner said she was thrilled to receive the grant on behalf of families in need.
“(We were) elated, truly, not for ourselves as a nonprofit, but for the function and impact of the project on our fellow residents and families,” Danner said. “We didn’t get funded to the full level of our proposals, but that takes nothing away from the reality that we have a county government that is on the ball, capable and action-oriented.”
Danner said the primary purpose of this project is to employ underemployed or unemployed Kaua‘i residents to engage in stewardship projects in and around DHHL areas on Kaua‘i.
“For example, the team has cleaned 18 kupuna yards, restored ditch systems, built a prototype for a backyard garden, a storage shed for a community facility in Kekaha, built a beach-safety walkway and improved access to a food-distribution program for drive-thru capability,” Danner said.
Other projects that HCDC is involved with include assisting in the community with COVID-19 safety measures by installing technology at a pavilion to ensure important community meetings are accessible in a safe way, as well as landscaping and clearing debris from community sites.
Besides coordinating their employment program, HCDC is partnering with local businesses for supplies and leasing of small tools and equipment to facilitate the land stewardship work of the HJC program.
“The HJC has a list of COVID-19-related improvements to make for micro-business owners at their shops to facilitate social distancing when they reopen,” Danner said.
According to HCDC, there are 22 individuals on the HJC payroll, of which 73% are lifelong residents, with the average age of 31. Some 68% are male, 77% are single, 9% have a college or vocational degree, and 27% have some college experience.
Danner said participants work 37.5 hours a week, and the project is funded through December, “essentially 22 weeks of amazing, uplifting stewardship work, community helping community.”
The first purchases that the HJC program made led to getting locally-made masks, and tools, gloves and similar equipment, to help get their stewardship projects started.
Danner said HCDC serves all islands with its affordable-housing and economic-development missions.
“We engage in a lot of funding processes at the local, state and national levels all year long,” Danner said.
“It’s an understatement to say that our County of Kaua‘i handling of CARES Act funding with the federal limitations and short timelines, did a herculean job of designing the RFP (request for proposals), pulling in talent across the county system to review, rank and execute awards.”
More info: hawaiianhomesteads.org/