KAPAA — Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and a few other public officials have intervened in a complaint at a state-owned housing complex, resulting in the promise of flooring upgrades, but questions still linger.
Several officials have visited the Hale Nan Kai O Kea Elderly Housing Project, located behind Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital in Kapaa.
“Arrangements were made for me to go to the complex to meet with (Rowena Pangan) and two of the residents, listen to their concerns and see firsthand what the situation was,” Carvalho told TGI. “One of the residents explained that it was difficult for her to move about in her apartment because the flooring needed to be fixed.”
Pangan is a caregiver for one of the residents, and has been advocating for two tenants with complaints at the complex.
Upon returning to his office, Carvalho said he put in a call to the county Agency on Elderly Affairs and asked the entity to work with the state and the tenants in addressing the issue.
Helen Enobakhare, head of property management maintenance for Hawaii Public Housing Authority, said the head office never received complaints from the tenants themselves, but the office did receive a few phone calls from Kauai community leaders.
That got the ball rolling.
“The issue has been resolved from our party’s prospective,” Enobakhare said. “Regarding the glue, the manager has sent out official notices to find out who has such a problem because our personnel are there from Oahu ready to fix the problem.”
Rep. Derek Kawakami, as well as Councilmembers Mel Rapozo and Kipukai Kuali’i, also visited the complex. None of the three men returned requests from TGI for comments on the situation.
While representatives from Hawaii Public Housing Authority say the issues at the apartments are being addressed, Councilmember Mason Chock was contacted last week with the same concerns.
He visited the apartments to address the ongoing issues.
“I went up there and spent about an hour with some of the kupuna who, I guess, are struggling with the management in getting their floor redone because the glue is coming up,” Chock said.
TGI calls to the local management of the apartment complex were directed to the Oahu office of Hawaii Public Housing Authority.
It was a 2014 nighttime fall that kicked off these complaints at the complex, when resident Carrie Carvalho said she slipped on the glue that was coming up from the flooring in her apartment. She fell and fractured her ankle.
“One night, I go walk over there (into the kitchen) because I have a water station there and I slipped under my kitchen table,” Carvalho told TGI. “I couldn’t move my leg, it was hurting, the ankle, so I went over to Mahelona Hospital.”
After a trip to Wilcox Memorial Hospital, Carvalho was set up with crutches, she said. She then called Hawaii Public Housing’s Kauai management office.
“I explained to them about the glue that was coming through and where I had fallen,” Carvalho said.
But repeated complaints went unanswered, until Pangan, her caretaker, heard about it. She decided to start making calls in mid-August, but then discovered the timing of the fall was different than what she’d thought.
“I thought it’d happened in January, only a few months ago,” Pangan said. “When I realized it had happened two years ago, I said ‘OK, that’s it.’”
But it wasn’t just Carvalho’s flooring concerns that caught Pangan’s attention. Another resident, Daniel Pimentao, was having problems as well.
“I fell in my apartment and broke my hip last year,” Pimentao said. “I had surgery and had temporary physical therapy and now I no can lift my leg high enough to get in the shower.”
Pimentao said he’s complained to management as well, requesting someone fix the shower. He has been bathing in a five-gallon bucket in the meantime.
In early August, Pangan attended a Kauai board meeting of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, where she appealed to Daniel Ahuna and other board members.
OHA staff members began researching the complaint. At the same time, Pangan reached out to other community leaders.
By the end of August, Hawaii Public Housing had maintenance crews at the housing units, available to fix the floors.
Enobakhare said written notices, sent out in early September, about the availability of flooring upgrades should help the situation.
When it comes to Pimentao’s complaint, Enobakhare said she’d heard nothing.
“There are always issues with many tenants,” she said. “They don’t bring it to the head office, they take it to the manager to resolve.”
The mayor said he’s pleased to see people working together to address the issues.
“For a lot of situations, all it takes is for all parties involved to simply come to the table and work things out,” Carvalho said.
Chock said he’ll be keeping tabs on the progress.
“I intend to continue looking into it and will do so next week. We should be doing all we can to not only take care of our kupuna but keep them save in every aspect so their quality of life is good,” Chock said.