Homelessness hits hard

Whenever Deborah Kaiu looks at her 64-year-old mom, Phylis Goias, her heart goes out to her.

Kaiu, 44, a former Kaua’i resident who now lives on Maui, remembers how her mother stood by her after her parent’s divorce when she was just a girl, how her mother helped her during hard times as an adult and how she helped raise her son.

The fortunes of life have shifted, and now Goias finds herself in need and Kaiu in a position to help her mother, and gladly.

Since losing their rental home in Wailua, Goias, along with her youngest daughter Robert-Ann Goias and her four children, have lived at the beach, in cars and in hotel rooms.

To help, Kaiu has sent Goias her paychecks to cover the cost of hotel rooms and food. She also sent over a car from Maui for Goias to use after the older woman’s car broke down.

“I work construction, and I am not rich,” Kaiu said. “But I love my mom. It is time to give back.”

Goias acknowledges she has joined a small legion of homeless on the island, but thanks her daughter for having stepped forward to try to find her housing.

Kaiu is pursuing an option that might do the trick.

Kaiu said her ex-husband, who, like her, is a Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ beneficiary, has offered to transfer a DHHL residential lease to their 16-year-old son Josiah. The lease is tied to a DHHL lot in Anahola.

Through an arrangement, Goias could stay in any home built on the lot, Kaiu said.

But the challenge confronting the mother and daughter is this: DHHL will only consider the transfer if Kaiu can come up with detailed household plans and a contractor to build the house.

The DHHL board meets on July 24 in Lahaina to consider the request. “This is really important for us,” Kaiu said. “I need to make it to that meeting for my mom.”

DHHL also considered the transfer in 2006, but held off action until a rain-damaged cesspool on the lot was repaired, Goias.

DHHL spokesman Lloyd Yonenaka said he would check into the status of the request for the lease transfer.

In the meantime, the mother and daughter are “definitely going to try” to produce what the DHHL wants, Kaiu said.

Kaiu lived on Kaua‘i when neighbors willingly offered help and resources to families, and she is hoping a contractor and some Anahola residents will step forward today.

“A one-bedroom house would do,” Kaiu said. “I could work with that.”

She also offered her mother an option that could work, but would take her to a different island.

“I offered to let her stay with me at my home in Waihe‘e (on Maui). I begged and cried for her to come,” Kaiu said.” But she turned it down, because she won’t leave Kaua’i. She was born and raised in Anahola.”

Goias said she also couldn’t leave the island because she delivers papers for The Garden Island and the Honolulu Advertiser.

Goias said her bout with homelessness began in December when the landlord of her rental in Wailua announced plans to renovate the place and increase the rent.

Kaiu said her mother left, tried finding other rentals, but had the door literally slammed in her face when she called landlords.

“They told her they couldn’t rent to her because she had too many kids living with her,” Kaiu said.

“That’s discrimination,” Goias said with an edge in her voice.

Goias also couldn’t qualify for government rental subsidy beaus she makes too much money from her paper-delivery jobs.

Without many options, she pursued the only one that has worked for her in the past seven months.

Goias moved into condominiums and hotel rooms at Plantation Hale, Kauai Palms, Kauai Sands and Aloha Beach Resort Kauai, all located in the Kapa‘a area, and Banyan Harbor in Lihu‘e.

Goias said she has moved around lot because, “I ran out of money or there was no room.”

Kaiu said the stilton seems dire right now, but she said everybody remains optimistic because “we have hope.”

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com.

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