Salvation Army opens Hawaii’s first “safe house”

Group home for nonviolent youth offenders will house girls ages 13-17.

by Glen Doss, Major – 

Calling it a “celebration of love,” James Duke Aiona, Hawaii lt. governor, was the keynote speaker at the recent opening of the state’s first “safe house,” a unique group home for nonviolent youth offenders, in Honoka’a on the Big Island.

The Salvation Army Family Intervention Services (FIS) was chosen in a competitive bidding process to run the state-owned facility for an estimated $650,000 per year to be paid by the state. Several guests at the event credited the effective leadership of Pauline Pavao, FIS administrator, for The Salvation Army being selected.

“These people [FIS staff] are the best. They take the most difficult kids in the community and house them and the kids love it…the kids respond to the structure and staff very well,” pointed out Family Court Judge Ben Gaddis.

The group home, dubbed “Ke Kama Pono” (Children of Promise), will initially house six girls aged 13-17 (with capability of housing up to eight), from the Hawaii Correctional Facility (HCF), with preference given to Big Island children. The facility will be fenced in and equipped with wireless security alarms and 24-hour staffing.

The program will have “many unique features,” explained Lillian B. Koller, state Director of Human Services. “There will be onsite education so the children’s education won’t be interrupted, as well as substance abuse counseling and other life skills training. The children can really thrive, acquiring the life skills they need to reintegrate with their families in the community.”

Presented as a “more rehabilitative conducive setting” for the state’s “nonviolent youth,” Koller pointed out that “if this is a successful pilot we hope to replicate it for boys as well as more girls all over the state…These are kids who are chronically truant and whose parents can’t manage them…or children from the child welfare system who have been abused and neglected. They’re not bad kids; they’re kids who need some love and support and education and to be safe from bad influences.”

Aiona explained that both he and Governor Linda Lingle share a vision that the HCF will soon be “nothing more than a temporary place” for Hawaii’s troubled youth, whom he described as nonviolent children needing only “more direction and discipline and a safe place” to live.

Other group homes operated by FIS on the Big Island include a six-bed emergency shelter for boys and girls in Kona; an 11-bed emergency shelter for boys and girls in Hilo; and an eight-bed long-term group home for boys and girls, also in Hilo.

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