Bit of a breather

HANAPEPE — Patrick Wayne Rita has some breathing room. For now.

The 62-year-old was supposed to move out of his home Tuesday, but received a bit of good news from legal aid on moving day.

“The landlord’s attorney is going to give me 19 days,” he said. “That’s not what I need, but close enough.”

The landlord is Flowers West – and its land lease expired yesterday.

An attorney for Flowers West said it puts the company in a bind.

“The problem is that the landlord is leasing the land from somebody else and the landlord has to be out by today,” said Sherman Shiraishi, attorney for Flowers West. “The landlord is between a rock and a hard place.”

Shiraishi said he offered Rita the settlement because of Rita’s difficulties, which include sleep apnea, congestive heart failure, and water retention, were featured in The Garden Island Tuesday, the day Rita was supposed to move out.

“We only gave the extension because I know it’s difficult for him to move out,” Shiraishi said. “If we can reach an agreement, I’ll just tell the judge he has until whatever date we agree upon to move out.”

An old friend saw Rita’s story in TGI and immediately came to Rita’s rescue.

Rita said he nearly cried when he saw his friend Charles Ferguson pull up on his driveway.

Ferguson, a commercial fisherman from Hanapepe, is part of a five-person crew assisting Rita with moving his belongings.

“We’re helping him clean up and let him go through all the stuff he wants to keep and everything and make sure he gets everything he needs and get rid of the stuff that he don’t,” he said.

Rita said the majority of his belongings will be tossed, while the rest will be kept in storage.

“Ninety to 98 percent is being tossed to the transfer station,” he said, adding he’s yet to find a place to live. “When it’s all said and done, I’ll be living in a truck somewhere.”

According to The Data Center on Hawaii’s Aging, over 11,000 Kauai residents are 60 and older: 16 percent live alone, 37 percent have some kind of disability and 7 percent live below the poverty line.

Kealoha Takahashi, head of Kauai County’s Agency on Elderly Affairs, whose agency referred Rita to legal aid, said in an email people in similar situations can do three things.

“Depending on the reason for the eviction, seniors can apply for elderly housing units with Mark Development or Hawaii Public Housing Authority; if it is a landlord tenant issue, we make a referral to the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii; and we do advocate on the senior’s behalf with their property manager,” she said.

Officials from the Hawaii Public Housing Authority said the low-income rental cost for persons with disabilities and fixed incomes is 30 percent of their monthly gross income, pending a two- to four-year wait list.

Stephanie Fernandes, Kauai Economic Opportunity homeless and housing director, said people like Rita who have nowhere to go can check into KEO’s emergency homeless center at Mana Olana.

“The staff will be able to provide assistance with either referrals or assist him with housing applications,” she said. Fernandes said the emergency shelter can hold 19 people a night, and in the course of a year, it has served over 200 people.

Fernandes said residents like Rita struggle the most to find housing.

“The hardest are those who are on fixed incomes because some of them have a disability where it prevents them from being able to work,” she said.

Another option is Catholic Charities.

“Catholic Charities has several programs designed for low-income folks to either get housing or retain housing, so we work with homeless individuals,” said Debra de Luis, Catholic Charities Kauai community office director, adding that last year the nonprofit served 578 and distributed over $140,000. “That includes things like bus passes, past due rent, on-going rent for veterans, utilities, security deposits, sometimes car repairs.

Meanwhile, Ferguson said he will help Rita until everything is moved out.

“I worked with him in Sears Automotive and he took me under his wing and helped me learn to do tires,” he said. “I’m 36 now, so I’ve known him for a while. He’s a good guy.”

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