Karleen C. Chinen

If you happen to be driving into town along Nimitz Highway from the airport/Mäpunapuna area, you might find yourself doing a double take as you pass the area just before Ke‘ehi Lagoon. “Whoa . . . what happened to all the dried brush? What’s coming up here?” you might ask yourself.

For the longest time, just the sight of that mangled wasteland made you feel hot and sweaty, even as you sat in the comfort of your air-conditioned car. But things are a-changing there, thanks to one of ‘Hawai‘i’s foremost visionaries and entrepreneurs, Duane Kurisu. When I first heard about Kurisu’s plan to turn that Ke‘ehi Lagoon wasteland into a plantation-style village for homeless families and individuals called Kahauiki Village, I thought it was a great idea. I hoped he would succeed.

What Kurisu is working to create are affordable rental homes with all of the pride — and, yes, responsibilities — of residency. A place people can come home to after a day at work. A place to stretch out and relax. A place to raise children and visit with neighbors. A place to make plans for the future and to begin turning those plans into reality.

When I think of Kurisu’s vision for Kahauiki Village, I hear the words of the late Robert Kennedy: “I dream of things that never were and ask, why not?”

As you read Herald contributing writer Gregg Kakesako’s story, you’ll see that Kurisu knew Kahauiki Village would only succeed with buy-in and support — in supplies, services and sweat — from government, businesses and unions, organizations and individuals. It’s taking a village to build this village and I suspect Kurisu wouldn’t want it any other way. The vision was his, but I’m sure every person who has had a hand in the project, big or small, goes home feeling good inside. In that sense, Kahauiki Village is transforming more lives than just the homeless.

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