LIHUE — Two senior citizens are being evicted from the apartment they’ve lived in for the past decade, and they say they have nowhere to go.
“If he puts us out, I’ll be dead,” Buddy Cleary said Wednesday, through his oxygen mask.
The oxygen tank the 69-year-old is tethered to is his lifeline, and part of the reason he and his wife Kathleen face eviction.
On Jan. 30, the Clearys were served with an eviction notice, stating they violated the terms of their occupancy agreement with Lihue Court Townhomes by “continuing to smoke inside the unit while having oxygen tanks and an oxygen concentrator.”
During an inspection of their home in January, an apartment manager said he found evidence that the tenants had been smoking inside. Buddy Cleary said he started smoking his cigarettes outside since he’s been using the oxygen respirator after his surgery several months ago.
They were ordered to vacate the premises by Feb. 20, but “we haven’t been able to find anything,” Kathleen Cleary said.
“We’ve been looking for about three months now,” the 72-year-old said. “There’s nothing available. Either it won’t pass HUD or the rent is too high.”
According to a civil complaint filed last week in Fifth Circuit Court on behalf of Lihue Court Townhomes Corporation, the Clearys have violated their rental agreement a number of times since November 2016.
The Clearys disagree.
Because the Clearys’ monthly income is only about $1,400 — the total of their combined Social Security benefits — they are entitled to rental assistance under the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 voucher program.
The Clearys say their landlord wants them out in order to free up the apartment for a tenant not covered under the HUD program who would be required to pay the full rent.
A spokesperson for Mutual Housing Association of Hawaii, a nonprofit organization that oversees the management and operations of Lihue Court Townhomes, said Thursday the Clearys accusations are baseless.
According to the spokesperson, many of the Lihue Court residents are on HUD assistance, and the association embraces Section 8 tenants as part of its mission to provide affordable housing.
Their first court hearing is scheduled for Monday, March 11. For now, the elderly couple is simply holding out hope that another apartment will become available before they find themselves out on the street.
“It’s always sad when these things happen,” said MaBel Ferreiro-Fujiuchi, CEO of Kauai Economic Opportunity (KEO).
But she explained there are resources available to the Clearys. KEO runs a homeless shelter that opens at 5 p.m. and provides meals, beds and bathrooms for those in need. Clothing, food and even airline tickets can be provided to the island’s homeless through KEO programs.
Ferreiro-Fujiuchi said the Clearys can also apply to stay at the KEO’s transitional shelter, which offers a more-long-term solution, or submit an application for one of the HUD homes available for families through KEO.