Puna, Hawai‘i

‘Āina i ka houpō o Kāne.

Land in the breast of Kāne.

Said of Puna’s lands that are especially beautiful and full of the waters of life.

The district of Puna, of which NPP is located, is one of 9 districts of Hawai’i County. Located on the windward side (east side) of Hawai’i island, Puna is known for its diversity of regions, ranging from dense and large areas of protected rainforests, volcanic landscapes (home to the active Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes), agricultural farmlands, growing subdivisions and pristine black sand beaches. To put into perspective how vast the district of Puna is, the area of Puna (499 sq miles) (“Hawaii County, Hawaii”) is roughly as big as the area of the island of O’ahu (597 sq miles) (Levy)

While Puna is beautifully abundant with natural resources and a tight-knit community, other important resources such as public waterworks, public transportation, internet, and cell service are not always readily available to our residents. Puna has some of the highest rates of poverty in the State. (Liou) Though subdivisions have developed substantially over the years, Puna still contains many large underdeveloped areas. Households in Puna are often secluded and are responsible for their own water, waste and sometimes even power. 

Of all the districts in Hawai’i County, 21% of confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect are in Puna. 39% of child abuse and neglect cases in Hawai’i County are in regards to Native Hawaiian children. (State of Hawaii) We know from research there is a correlation between poverty, isolation, and lack of access to basic services, and child abuse and neglect. Youth in Hawaii County are more likely to be Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, live in a household with public assistance, and live in a household with income in the past 12 months below poverty level. (Liou)

Because Hawai’i island is natural disaster prone, hurricanes, lava flows and tsunami threats already take a major toll on households, on top of the many other issues that families have to deal with. The risk of displacement due to natural disasters amongst the rising costs of living in Hawai’i means we need to look out for our local community even more. Improving the stability and quality of life for our district is important for our keiki’s future. 


NPP In Your Neighborhood — A Case Story

When Neighborhood Place of Puna staff met Leilani and her two-year-old daughter, they had been living in an unpermitted, scavenged wood structure for six months. It was a rental located in a very isolated part of Puna.

They paid rent but did not have electricity or running water. They cooked on a camp stove and used candles and lanterns for lighting. The restroom was an improvised outhouse. Water, for cooking and cleaning, was collected at a public tap and kept in small jugs. It was heated on the camp stove for the baby’s bath.

While they were thankful to have shelter, the rough living situation was taking a toll.

To support her and her baby, Neighborhood Place of Puna helped Leilani find a small permitted home they could afford. We partnered with another agency to assist with the security deposit, first month’s rent, and utility deposit. Once the lease was signed, Neighborhood Place of Puna helped Leilani move in and find some basic furniture to furnish her new home.

Since then, Leilani and her two-year-old are now able to take hot showers, cook on a safer stove, keep food cool in a refrigerator, and have electricity for lighting and other appliances after dark. They are happier and are doing well.


Local Advocacy

Due to gentrification, the rising cost of living, and stagnating wages in Hawai’i, many families do not have adequate housing. Large percentages of our homeless population are actually minor children. In Hawai’i County, families specifically experience disproportionate rates of homelessness. In addition to this, over 50% of Native Hawaiians no longer live in the state of Hawaii – many citing economic reasons, hence the phrase, “Priced Out Of Paradise”.. (“American Community Survey 2021”) 

The State of Hawai’i’s housing crisis is severe. By 2030, Hawai’i County alone needs nearly 11,000 units or 29.5% of the state total, to avoid a mass housing crisis with long-term social impacts. (Hawaii Housing Demand) Hawai’i County is clearly behind that demand with only an annual average of 0.8% growth of housing units from 2010-2021. (State of Hawaii Data Book: Section 21.20 Housing Units, by County: 2010 to 2021)

When local families experience homelessness it has generational impacts: children experiencing homelessness are more likely to have Adverse Childhood Experiences. (Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative). Meaning they are at greater risk of having chronic mental, emotional or behavioral problems, missing school, experiencing bullying and/or abuse, experiencing trafficking, and experiencing homelessness as adults. We know that challenges like these may contribute to child abuse and neglect in our community and other negative long-term outcomes, which is why NPP exists. To make sure families get access to the support and resources they need. 

No child deserves to experience stress unnecessarily when we, as a community, can come together to change things. If you’d like to join one of our partner advocacy coalitions, check out Community Alliance Partners, our Big Island advocacy group working to end homelessness, and the East Hawaii Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect (EHCAN), the Interfaith Communities in Action, and the Vibrant Hawai’i Housing Coalition.

We all work together in our community to help make a positive change and hope you will join us too.


How We Help

Neighborhood Place of Puna is the 2nd largest homelessness provider in Hawai’i County and one of the few organizations in Puna that families can turn to for help. We know that we can end family homelessness in Hawai’i County through prevention and community partnerships. Over the past 20 years, we have grown to offer a variety of homelessness support and prevention programs, like our Hale Iki Temporary Emergency Shelter and Family Assessment Center, The Family Resource Center, The Coordination Center and Disaster Recovery Case Management. 

To help support the work we do, please consider helping the many families in need with a monetary donation to our programs. 

For support, call (808) 965-5550.

He ‘iki hala au no Kea’au, ‘a’ohe pōhaku alā e nahā ‘ai.

I am a small hala fruit of Kea’au, but there is no rock strong enough to crush me.

Said of those who are “Puna Strong” and resilient.


“American Community Survey 2021.” Census.hawaii.gov, 2021

Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. “Hawaii | Fact Sheet 2021” 

“Hawaii Housing Demand: 2020-2030.” Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, December 2019

“Hawaii County, Hawaii.” Wikipedia, 15 May 2023. Accessed 23 May 2023.

Levy, Michael . “Oahu | Location, Facts, & History | Britannica.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020.

Liou, Wayne. “The Underserved Populations in Hawaii Employment Analyst IV Workforce Development Council.” Workforce Development Council, 2018.

State of Hawaii. CHILD ABUSE and NEGLECT in HAWAII 2021. 2021.

“State of Hawaii Data Book: Section 21.20 Housing Units, by County: 2010 to 2021.” Dbedt.hawaii.gov, 2021. Accessed 20 June 2022.