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A third of Hawaii families struggle financially

  • John Steinhorst/The Garden Island

    Koloa resident, Gilbert Medeiros, works several jobs to provide for his family.

    John Steinhorst / The Garden Island

    Koloa resident Gilbert Medeiros works several jobs to provide for his family.

Many Kauai residents are struggling to make ends meet. Among them is Gilbert Medeiros, a Vietnam-era Army veteran.

Growing up in a plantation camp and working since the age of 12, Medeiros was employed as a mechanic and machinist. He worked as a licensed driver for Kauai Freight, Rego Trucking, Garden Island Disposal and finally Thronas Concrete for more than 30 years before taking early retirement.

Today, he works three part-time jobs, despite suffering from sciatica, torn tendons, collapsed vertebrae and drop-foot syndrome, as well as a piece of glass stuck in his head from an accident that resulted from a runaway load while hauling sugar cane.

“We were very fortunate our in-laws gave us their old house built in 1954,” Medeiros said. “I made a promise that I’ll maintain the house, and that’s their sweat. I’m very, very fortunate, I thank God all the time.”

“My father in-law, I love him dearly, he had a good heart and took care of them, and I’m trying to do the same. I’m just trying to do what’s right.”

Nearly one-third of Hawaii families don’t meet self-sufficiency income levels, according to a recent state report.

The report looked at the costs of housing, food, transportation, child care and taxes. It found that families on Kauai and Maui needed the highest self-sufficiency incomes to make ends meet, while some of the lowest incomes needed were seen on the Big Island.

Mederios’ wife, son, two daughters, four grandchildren and daughter’s partner all live in the modest Koloa house. Even through the difficult times and family issues when his kids needed bailing out, he always remembered that his grandparents told him to never give up.

“We got the basics, we got a roof over our head, we got enough accommodations for everybody,” he said. “If anybody leaves it’s going to be a burden on everybody else. But the way it is right now, nobody can leave the program.”

The 63-year-old can make $17,000 annually while still collecting his full Social Security earnings. Although he doesn’t accept any form of government assistance, he offers his mechanic services to friends in exchange for fruit and vegetables.

“Nowadays I’ve come to realize that if you don’t stick together it’s hard,” he said. “If you don’t have that support system, I really don’t see how you can make a long-term deal out of this.”

As Portuguese descendants, his family has been on Kauai for seven generations and has seen many changes. Medeiros used to hunt and fish but says now there are too many rules and regulations.

“You’ve got to get permits and this and that. Everything costs,” he said. “If you don’t have the money to dish out for all that, you can’t even provide for your family anymore.”

His parents and grandparents used to say that out of your sweat is how you’re supposed to support your family.

“You’ve got to cut back here and there, but there’s good times every now and then,” he said. “It seems hard, and sometimes I want to give up honestly. But there’s always a silver lining.”

“When you struggle to get something, you appreciate it that much more,” he added. “I appreciate my family sticking together. That’s the only spark that keeps me going through these hard times.”

6 Comments
  1. ruthann jones January 17, 2018 4:23 am Reply

    it is indeed a struggle to live on Kauai….but with a ‘gifted’ house he still complains?


  2. Leilani January 17, 2018 4:56 am Reply

    They should all leave Hawaii and find places with a lower cost of living on the mainland.
    Entire extended families from California are all moving away from Cali to other states with a lower cost of living.
    Being in Hawaii for seven generations?
    Other families were there since the 1800’s but moved to lower cost areas and more opportunity for their young people.


    1. Jake January 17, 2018 5:10 pm Reply

      I could not agree more. I am tired of hearing about the high cost of living, no good paying jobs, too many visitors paying the bills (TAT) on the islands, traffic (what a joke), the high price of homes.

      In the “Real World” people move. It is the 21st century. You work up a plan, save, and make it happen. It is just as difficult for us working stiffs to move here, as it is for anyone on the islands to move back to the mainland or any other place on the planet with a better standard of living. Stop the madness!


  3. Suzanne Kashiwaeda January 17, 2018 7:55 am Reply

    This situation will only get worse as Trump & other politicians influenced by the wealthiest 1% continue to garner more and more wealth for themselves. I wonder what % of the “homeless” population is working folks who are houseless? So sad that a third of families are struggling to make ends meet while we sell our land to the highest bidders…land is power (read the book).


  4. jakcob liggett January 17, 2018 2:20 pm Reply

    Drop out of high school, have children you can’t afford to raise, work at jobs that pay peanuts, then complain that you can’t make ends meet. That isn’t misfortune. That’s retarded.


  5. Knowitall January 17, 2018 5:29 pm Reply

    Hawaii = Liberal State = Unaffordable for working class families
    (Same with California, New York, Mass and many many more)
    Liberal cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and many many others are far too dangerous to live in. . .
    The greatest transfer of wealth in the history of the US occurred under Obama. Yet blind people like Suzanne want to blame conservatives.
    Guess what conservatives want?? You to keep more of the money you earn! Meanwhile liberal states raise taxes every few months driving up the cost of living for the middle class. Then they use the money to subsidize rich people and feel good projects, like rails, electric vehicle rebates and free medical to illegal immigrants and the lazy.
    It comes from your pocket and it’s called theft! Less taxes, less wasteful spending and less Suzanne’s please


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