At Neighborhood Place of Puna, we believe that every family should have access to the resources and support they need to thrive, to raise their children in a safe, stable, and nurturing home.
We are striving to create a non-stigmatizing way to provide families with underage children a variety of resources and supports to address concrete needs, housing instability, skill building, developmentally appropriate parenting, social isolation, etc., while also offering opportunities for healing, growth, learning, and personal development.
We want to help families do more than just meet their basic needs. It is our hope that Neighborhood Place of Puna is a place where families discover opportunities to grow, thrive, and succeed.
Neighborhood Place of Puna began in 2002 as a community response to the high rates of reported of child abuse and neglect in Puna, and the disproportionately high removal rate of Hawaiian children from their homes by CWS. As of 2023, we have grown from just 3 staff to over 20+ staff and are now the 2nd largest homeless provider in Hawai’i County.
We opened our doors as a YMCA program in Puna under the direction of Mary Hyslop. Our first office was — fittingly — a house located in the small town of Pahoa next to Sacred Heart Catholic Church and across the street from Pahoa High School.
After four years with the YMCA, Neighborhood Place of Puna (NPP) became an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit. This transition allowed NPP to add programs, expand its geographic reach, and give more focus to community development.
In 2011 Mary Hyslop retired. The Board of Directors selected Paul Normann as the new Executive Director. Paul was previously employed by NPP as the Community Development Specialist.
2011 was also the year that the great recession began to fully impact families in Puna. Between 2011 and 2016, NPP provided parental support, resource navigation, emergency food assistance, basic hygiene supplies, etc., to an average of 147 families each year, 2.5 times more families than we served in 2010.
In August of 2014 Hurricane Iselle came ashore in East Hawaii and wrecked devastation upon Puna, leaving many communities without power for weeks. Neighborhood Place of Puna joined with other like minded non-profits to create a coordinated system for disaster response and recovery efforts.
The Kilauea volcanic eruption in May of 2018 once again pushed NPP into the role of non-profit disaster response service coordinator and data manager. When the eruption finally ended in August of 2018, over 700 homes had been destroyed, roads were covered in lava and thousands needed assistance. For more information on this eruption, you can view the HCF report here.
Between 2018 and 2020 NPP coordinated disaster outreach, service delivery, and data collection for 2531 total households impacted by the Kilauea Eruption. As part of the longer term recovery, our Disaster Case Management Program was able to directly assist 254 households by connecting them with financial assistance, resources, and services to aid their recovery.
In may of 2019 Neighborhood Place of Puna opened the Family Assessment Center, Hale Iki. Hale Iki provides Emergency Shelter and Housing Navigation to families with children who are experiencing homelessness. It is the only family shelter located in Puna.
Throughout the Coronavirus Pandemic, Neighborhood Place of Puna has continued to support families directly through tele-service and in-person service delivery. Additionally, NPP has partnered with several non-profits to provide emergency rental and utility assistance to households impacted by the pandemic and at risk of losing their housing. As in previous disasters, NPP also coordinates the delivery of assistance as well as data collection and reporting.
Looking forward, NPP will continue to provide supportive services to families while advocating for the big structural changes that will create a more just and equitable community. Neighborhood Place of Puna will continue to work to end family and child homelessness, hunger, and privation. We will continue to strive to create a community in which every family can thrive and access the resources and support they need to raise their children in a safe, stable, and nurturing home.