City-operated safe house for abuse victims to shut down

Local News

After nearly three years, an apartment complex for sex trafficking and domestic abuse victims is shutting down. That’s after the City Council made significant cuts to the City Prosecutor’s Safe House budget.

Councilman Brandon Elefante tells us this is the first time they’ve cut the budget for this program because after all these years the Safe House hasn’t served it’s full potential.

After the city spent $6.2 million to buy and renovate the safe house it’s closing its doors. 

When it first opened, the City Prosecutor said the safe house would not only provide housing but services to give victims a better life. 

“We’ll look for jobs for them we have sex trafficking victims who come here and the only life they know is prostitution we want to get them out of prostitution and what we do is we give them job training and we find jobs for them,” said Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro in an interview back in 2016. 

However, this week the City Council approved a spending cap of about $274 thousand for the Safe House. That’s a significant drop from a previous budget of about $448 thousand.

This time around, council members cut funding for 24-hour guard and security services, operating expenses, and salaries. 

“Based on those particular cuts in the budget draft yesterday (Wednesday) that the council did approve, according to the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, they said they would have to close the Safe House down,” said Councilman Elefante, the Budget Vice Chair. 

Elefante tells us they scaled down the funding because the safe house has been underutilized for nearly 3 years. 

“Not many clients were using it. I think at one time they had like 4, so it wasn’t a high number and we are paying a lot for staff that was there to basically service the folks in the Safe House.

Currently, the Prosecutor’s Office tells us 16 residents live at the facility, which has 20 apartments. 41 people have lived there since it opened in September of 2016. Elefante says we’re the only county in the nation that operates a safe house. 

“Other municipalities have different programs and I think that’s something we could look into and reevaluate on how they are doing it when it comes done to issues like this,” said Elefante. 

We asked when the residents will have to move out but that date has not been determined.

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