by Connie Mitchell
IHS, The Institute for Human Services, Inc.
July 14, 2017
Probably the one subgroup of homeless people that tugs at all of our hearts are the children who are homeless and in tow with their parents living on the streets. Most parents are concerned and super protective of their children while homeless. At IHS, we’re so privileged to offer shelter to families and strive to quickly move them onto more stable housing as best we can.
But the challenges are many for families to achieve housing, The affordable housing market is wafer thin these days. Just last week, the Star Advertiser announced that the median price of a home on Oahu climbed to $795,000 this month. This of course reflects a corresponding rise in rents. Fair Market Rent for a 2-bedroom unit is running close to $2000/month and without a rent subsidy, many working families cannot afford permanent housing on Oahu.
Enter philanthropist and developer Duane Kurisu. He wants to recreate a community for families emerging out of homelessness and struggling to make a go of it, much like the Big Island plantation he grew up in on a Big Island. Hard work used to mean there would be exciting rewards around the corner. If folks were willing to put in a little extra work, even more success was sure to be there for them. That is not the case today where folks can work two or three jobs and still don't feel like they have enough resources to provide all that they need for their family -- because housing costs have gotten so out of hand.
The vision for Kahauiki Village is a hopeful response that seeks to stem the tide of despair that has rolled on to local shores related to the disparity between income and the basic cost of living in Hawaii. Kurisu has inspired partners including IHS to give generously in creating an updated version of the social compact that once fueled hopes among young families for their children’s future.
At Kahauiki, working families once experiencing homelessness will be setting their children on a path to success through education, modeling a strong work ethic and embracing the stability of a modest but comfortable home. Renting a home that allows you to save some funds to invest in the future. It is an experiment in recreating the structures of a past Hawaii for a new day and a new generation.
Kahauiki is meant to demonstrate how an economic structure based on the foundation of an affordable home can make life possible on Oahu for people joining the workforce at the entry level. Hope inspires all kinds of possibilities, not the least of which are children’s image of themselves. Having a permanent home enables children to attend school consistently, make friendships that last a lifetime and memories they will want to recall years later. I know that my childhood given to me by my immigrant parents, though modest in means, was rich with memories of learning and growing with the same class of students through my first seven years of school and being mentored by my older sister and other neighborhood children and me doing the same for my younger brothers and their friends.
Who knows what kind of community leaders will emerge from the community of children raised in Kahauiki Village in the next 25 years? Another philanthropist like Duane Kurisu perhaps?
Family homelessness can be ended and our community can be enriched by its members who can raise children without the stress of housing or food insecurity; parents would have time to affirm and support their children, while engendering the values of pooling resources for joint goals, celebrating and grieving life events together and simply living life more creatively. When people share life together, there is the possibility of experiencing collective joy when one “makes it”, just as the larger Hawaii community has relished the success of President Barack Obama, football quarterback Marcus Mariota or baseball pro Shane Victorino when a local kid makes good.
We need to continue casting vision and investing in communities where the American Dream can be revived, believing that from the ranks of modest beginnings can come people who can change the world for the better, just by being a working, contributing citizen in our community. Kahauiki Village is so much more than a solution for homelessness...but it is just that, at the very least.
To learn more, please visit www.kahauiki.org
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