Tidbits and Thoughts . . .  Legal Aid's Online  News
June 25, 2019

In the Community, For the Community

Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center's Joanne Loeak, Tamara Heine (Consulate of the Marshall Islands), and Tatjana Johnson at a recent free legal workshop on Oahu.

"Building a Just Society"
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Executive Director's Corner

The community is at the heart of the work that we do and reaching out to the community where they are so that they see legal service providers as helpers and problem solvers. Over the last few years, we've looked at this challenge and have initiated efforts aimed at reducing this barrier to seek legal help.

Building trust in the system and an understanding of how legal professionals can assist those in our community to access justice, is the focus of a training program developed by our Managing Attorney Connie Liu done in partnership with other legal service providers and as part of the national Justice for All initiative. Over the past six months, Connie along with legal service providers from other programs have trained almost 120 community partners on how to identify legal problems and refer them for legal assistance and we have worked to create a community among the participants to build bridges and to hopefully increase partnerships and referrals between those organizations.

Our Health Navigator Project has reached out to the Micronesian community by providing assistance in enrolling in health insurance using Outreach Specialists Cinder Sonis and Sepe Mongkeya from these communities. We also developed an innovative community outreach program to educate Marshallese women on domestic violence by putting at the center their own culture and values through the efforts of Outreach Specialist Joanne Loeak. These efforts to build community trust, have increased the number of Micronesian community members seeking legal assistance exponentially and lead to numerous settlements and policy changes around language access.

We're also engaging directly with community health clinics and building on our medical legal partnership with Waimanalo Health Center with Senior Attorneys Janet Kelly and Makia Minerbi, we started a medical legal partnership with West Hawai'i Community Health Center through the efforts of Staff Attorney Dan Mistak. We will also be working in the upcoming year with the Hawai'i State Rural Health Association on Opioid Prevention and Planning for rural Hawai'i.

All the while, we continue our community outreach at over forty locations to directly reach the homeless where they are and other client populations as well as attend community fairs and events.

At our core, the Legal Aid Society of Hawai'i's vision is to 'Build a Just Society,' and being a part and listening to the community is part of this. I'm so proud of these efforts and our amazing staff who take community engagement and involvement to heart in all the work that they do.



Legal Aid helps win social security benefits for disabled father
Kamino was living in public housing and suffering from disabling physical conditions when he came to Legal Aid.  He had been denied social security benefits multiple times.  Fortunately, Legal Aid was able to assist him with gathering medical evidence, and successfully represented him at his appeals hearing.  Legal Aid also assisted him with submitting an Employment Authorization application to the US Department of Homeland Security, and is in the process of assisting him with an adoption matter.  

Fortuitously, on a day when Kamino came to the Leeward Office, a tourist from California had donated school supplies for clients.  Kamino was very happy to accept backpacks containing school supplies for his teenage son and daughter

Legal Aid gives hope to single mother by resolving debt issues
"Prior to coming to Legal Aid for assistance I had experienced deep family trauma which led to extreme financial hardship. My father died of advanced stages of cancer, my sister died from nurse error during a routine procedure and my grandmother of old age (but nonetheless painful) -  all within a short period of time. Three months after my father passed, my children's father left us without any continued financial support. All of my funds had gone to contributing to the cancer care as well as caring for my children and so I began falling desperately into debt. My children and I soon lost our home and since I was not involved in any domestic violence or drug abuse no organizations or agencies would accept us into their programs.

Joni from Legal Aid contacted me within a very short period of time regarding a summons by a collection agency, interviewed me thoroughly then provided  a succinct assessment culminating in her offer to represent me legally in court.  I tear up even now in how much that meant to me - to have a light of hope and help in that moment, removing the burden of fear knowing I was completely incapable of representing myself sufficiently in court.   She was exceptionally professional and efficient, following through on court dates, filings and communication with myself during the entire process. Just reading through her response to the summons left me amazed at her scope of detail, research and genuine care for her client and work ethic. I will always have a moment of admiration in my heart for her qualities that exemplify people in this world who really make a difference.

Due to Legal Aid's help my case was dismissed without me ever having to find childcare and spend hours sitting in court- Joni attended on my behalf and took care of EVERYTHING.  I can now work toward getting on my feet financially and providing for my children without the constant financial harassment and paycheck deductions keeping me in a struggle to survive.

People should know that the Legal Aid Society of Hawai'i works.  They have caring professionals dedicated to representing those who are vulnerable and experiencing hardship in a system that is otherwise unforgiving, costly and arduous to navigate.   They have saved my children and I from unmanageable burden and God knows a good 5-6  white hairs! Of all the organizations I have approached for help in these difficult years, the Legal Aid Society is the only one that accepted me painlessly, professionally and based solely on need.  I hope Legal Aid continues to grow and prosper for the benefit of the many who are struggling to break free of overwhelming legal odds -  free to live their lives as productive, hopeful individuals."
Free Legal Workshop on July 13 at Palolo Valley Homes for Citizens of the Freely Associated States

WHEN:          Saturday, July 13, 2019
10:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.        Presentation in English and Chuukese.
12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.          Presentation in English and Marshallese.
The Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii ("HIJC") will present a free legal workshop, "Important Documents for COFA (Compact of Free Association) Migrants." The workshop will cover a variety of documents that citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands need to live and work in the United States, including a passport, I-94 arrival/departure record, and Social Security number.  The workshop will address recent changes to federal and state laws regarding obtaining a driver's license or state identification card and the use of a "limited purposes driver's licenses" as a temporary solution for those with an urgent need for a driver's license.  HIJC will explain step-by-step how to complete the application for an Employment Authorization Document and what documents need to be attached to the application.  
WHERE:        Palolo Valley Homes Learning Center
                     2170 Ahe St.
                     Honolulu, HI 96816

Registration Open: Public Benefits Overview Training August 22-23

Public Benefits Overview Training August 22-23
Please join the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii for the Public Benefits Overview Training on August 22-23, 2019 located at the HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union,  1226 College Walk, Honolulu, HI 96817 .  The registration fee is $150.00 and includes the cost of attendance for both days, a light lunch both days, and the PBOT manual  in electronic format .  Scholarship applications are available.  Registration capped at 75 participants or open until August 9, 2019, whichever occurs first.

Please register and pay via PayPal online by clicking the following link: 
Please contact Troy Ballard for a scholarship application.  
Scholarship application deadline is July 1, 2019. 

Questions? Need a scholarship application?  
Please contact Troy Ballard at  Troy.Ballard@legalaidhawaii.org or (808) 527-8065. 
Welcome Summer Law Clerks 2019

Britagne Johnson
William S. Richardson School of Law
Rebekah Ray
William S. Richardson School of Law
Troy Ballard
William S. Richardson School of Law
Jessica Daye
William S. Richardson School of Law
Sarah Smith
University of Tulsa College of Law
Mary Pascual
Gonzaga University School of Law ,  A2J Tech Fellow
Jessica Adlam
Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University (summer volunteer)

Summer law clerks and staff join for a picture in the front of the Hawaii Supreme Court as part of poverty law training. 

Legal Aid's summer law clerks and future judges. 

Honolulu District Court Judge Melanie May takes a moment to speak with staff and law clerks during a visit to the Access to Justice Center.

Community Navigator Training
Kauai Legal Aid office managing attorney, Linda Vass shares more about Legal Aid services to the Community Navigators.

Legal Aid's managing attorney for community engagement, Connie Liu with Rae Shih from ACLU conducted a community navigator training at the Kauai Office of Aging in Lihue. Additional presenters included Jennifer Carter from YWCA and Annaleah Atkinson from KEO Mediation. Twenty-three people participated in the training. The participants represented organizations such as Malama Pono Health Services, Ho'ola Lahui Hawai'i, and Hale `Opio Kaua`i. Danielle Hirsch and Shelley Spacek from the National Center for State Courts based in Williamsburg, VA came to observe and learn more about the training.  

Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Workshop answers community need 
Outreach specialists Jacky and Sepe provide legal information at the workshop.

Over 400 residents from the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands packed the cafeteria at Waipahu Elementary School to participate in the free legal workshop organized by Legal Aid's Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center. The workshop provided guidance on completing an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and was presented in English, Chuukese, and Marshallese.

Residents prepare EAD applications during the legal workshop.

 HIJC's Joanne Loeak explained to reporters how changes to the REAL ID ACT is impacting residents from nations under the Compact of Free Association, an international agreement between the U.S. and the pacific island nations of the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands. 

AmeriCorps in Service
Sarah with self-help center volunteer Bryant Zane,  Office of the Public Defender.

Thank you to Honolulu District Court Access to Justice Room AmeriCorps member Sarah Acevedo for her service in helping unrepresented litigants at the self-help center. Sarah will be starting law school in the fall.  

AmeriCorps Advocate Stacy Machen with volunteer attorney Mallory Martin from the Cades Schutte law firm.  

Thank you to the attorneys, law firms, and organizations who volunteer at the Honolulu Access to Justice Room in 2019. You provide valuable legal help to the people who have no choice but to navigate the legal system on their own. 
Arlette Harada,  Bryant Zane, Dan O'Meara, Eileen Zorc, Jefferson Willard, Joni Domingues, Justin Brackett, Miriah Holden, Shannon Wack, and Walter Hebblethwaite. 
McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon
Chun Kerr
Case Lombardi & Pettit
Hawaii Association of Justice
Carlsmith Ball LLP
Cades Schutte 
Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel

Hawaii Access to Justice Conference
Attendees at this year's Hawaii Access to Justice Conference learn more about the Community Navigator project by the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii.

The Access to Justice Conference sponsored by the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission  was recently held at the William S. Richardson School of Law. More about the Hawaii Access to Justice Conference. 

Legal Aid senior attorney for the homeless project, Janet Kelly was part of a panel, "Seeing the Human First -Helping the Homeless in 2019," Legal Aid's Executive Director, Nalani Fujimori Kaina presented on "Justice for All Projects to Enhance Access to Civil Justice" and Sergio Alcubilla was part of a panel on "Using Technology to Provide Meaningful Help in Access to Justice."

Janet Kelly answers questions from the audience during her session. 

Fair Housing Training

Fair Housing staff attorney Lindsay Kukona Pakele and AmeriCorps advocate Alexis Mukaida provided company wide training on fair housings laws to a local property management company as part of their annual training.  

"The participants were engaged and asked good, thoughtful questions.  Doing trainings with property management companies is a great preventative measure that helps spread awareness of Fair Housing law and also permits housing providers to openly ask questions and share their perspec tives in a non-adversarial setting." -Lindsay
Community Navigator Training

Connie conducted the last of the Community Navigator training with Rae Shih from ACLU and Charity Norem from Ku'ikahi Mediation Center conducted a community navigator training at the Hilo County Office of Aging in Hilo. Additional presenters included Jeff Ng from the Public Defenders' office and representatives from Child and Family Services. Fourteen people participated in the training. The participants represented organizations such as The Food Basket, Partners in Development, and the Hawai'i Diaper Bank.

The project provided training to trusted people in the community to help identify legal issues, provide resources, and refer people to the right organizations for legal help.
"Community Navigators" include social workers, religious leaders, elders, librarians, and other respected people in the community that others normally go to for help when they have a problem. These problems can include legal issues that trained navigators can now better identify.
In the News
Legal workshop provided resources and next steps for Micronesians
Saturday, June 1
By Nicole Tam

There is temporary relief with a limited purpose driver's license, that allows driving but no traveling out of state. 
Federal changes put up a roadblock to Micronesians getting a drivers license in the state, but they may soon get some relief.
Ever since changes to the "Real ID act" took effect here in the islands, many Compacts of Free Association citizens say they're confused and frustrated. When congress made changes to the act, it was supposed to make it easier for Pacific Islanders to get identification. Right now immigrants from Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands can only get a license with an Employment Authorization Document, something they didn't need before when they came to the United States. 
"Many people in the COFA community have been coming to us complaining because they show up to the DMV, they wait hours in line, only to be turned away from getting a driver's license," Tatjana Johnson, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, said.  
Malachi Dick moved to Hawaii from the Marshall Islands 11 years ago. He hoped this event would help him get proper identification soon. 
"All the citizens have the right to live and work under American... I just concerned why they do this kind of form for citizens," he said. 
Legal experts say the state could submit a petition to the Department of Homeland Security to ask for a one year extension. That would to allow more time to get the required documents, that can take up to five months. Non-profit law firm Legal Aid Society of Hawaii is working with the state on that process. 
"It's a small population for congress to really pay close attention to so in the meanwhile, the community is putting this together and helping... People in the legal community are coming together to help but this is not the perfect solution," John Egan, Refugee and Immigration Law Clinic, William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii at Manoa, said. 
There is temporary relief with a limited purpose driver's license, that allows driving but no traveling out of state. 
The next legal aid event is on July 13th in Palolo Valley. You can also call 808-536-4302 to seek legal service. It's free for eligible families and individuals. 
Umekes packed with more than 100 people for meeting in Kona about crime, chronic homelessness

West Hawaii Today 
Wednesday, June 19, 2019, 12:05 a.m.

LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today More than 100 people attended a second community meeting to address the homeless situation Monday at Umekes Fish Market Bar and Grill in Kona.

KAILUA-KONA - A grassroots effort to put a spotlight on crime and chronic homelessness in Kailua Village is continuing to pick up steam, with a meeting Monday drawing a crowd of an estimated 130-150 people to the Paina Room at Umekes Fish Market Bar and Grill.
It was the second such gathering organized to give residents and business owners a chance to share their experiences and bring in those working to address the issue.
"People are concerned. People want to know," Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas told the crowd at the top of the meeting. "We want to know what's being done, who's doing it, how it's being done, how we can participate, and the levels of interest and enthusiasm and excitement and empowerment that were generated at that first meeting I think are evident because all of you are here this evening."
While the first meeting in May was a more informal talk story, Monday's gathering brought together community members with representatives of local government agencies, nonprofits and other community groups, all of whom brought their experiences and know-how to the table.
That included people such as Regina Weller of the 808 Homeless Task Force, who shared her 25 years of experience getting homeless people off the streets - results, she said, that came out of a meeting in Los Angeles just like what community members here organized Monday.
One thing she said she learned early on in her work was the importance of looking at the whole community, listening to its residents and police and considering all of the community's needs.
She also emphasized a sense of compassion for everyone on all sides of the issue who is working on or affected by homelessness, from public officials, the advocates and the kids playing in parks to law enforcement officers and those experiencing homelessness themselves.
"This business of homelessness is a business of the heart, and it cannot be one-sided," Weller said. "We have to care about everybody and their livelihood and their safety and how they want to function and what is the pursuit of happiness. It's different for everybody."
The meeting kicked off with updates about local initiatives aimed at assisting people experiencing homelessness, such as Kukuiola, the project formerly called Village 9. But much of the focus turned to proposals for what the community needs: more responsiveness from police, more laws to deter things such as loitering and public intoxication and more resources to support those with mental health needs or substance use disorders.
One business owner said it's taken 45 minutes for police to respond to a call, by which time everyone involved has left the scene, and that business owners are afraid to speak out for fear of backlash, adding some people have even been threatened with arrest themselves for harassing law enforcement.
In addition to alcohol and drug use the business owner has witnessed on the seawall along Alii Drive, there are also dire public health issues that go unaddressed.
But police in attendance said getting people off the street by arresting them isn't as straightforward as some might expect.
"Homelessness is not a crime," said Community Policing Officer Reuben Pukahi. "We can't just arrest people for being homeless."
Pukahi said an arrest requires probable cause and evidence, but added that police are taking steps to be more proactive via outreach and beat sweeps.
The county also doesn't have specific crimes called public intoxication or loitering, a point that, when raised by First Deputy Prosecutor Dale Ross, sparked disbelief from the crowd.
"Where are we?" asked one audience member.
Under Hawaii County Code, the only references to loitering as a crime are during emergencies such as tsunami warnings or loitering "close to an impending disaster or a disaster area."
But while some residents proposed changing the laws on those matters, they also insisted that there's still more police could do, starting with being more present in the area.
"Community policing is being in the community," one woman said. "And the reason why you don't see anything is because you're not there."
But another part of the conversation was an acknowledgment that the island is lacking when it comes to services and resources.
"It's not so much the homeless but it is the homeless that are actively using and the crystal methamphetamine problem that we have in our community that is making these people do all these inappropriate things and behave the way that they are," said Julie Agno, Big Island county services director at Mental Health Kokua, saying the lack of treatment options here is a huge issue for the state.
Currently, she said, there's a six-month wait list for in-patient treatment for the whole state, and she urged those at the meeting to press lawmakers to address the issues of substance misuse.
That lack of places for people to go was a point reiterated by Dan Mistak of Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, who also emphasized that services aren't only critical for the island's homeless population but also its housed population.
"So this is not just a crisis of getting people off of your doorstep, it's where are they going to go? Where are they going to call their home?" he said. "They are our neighbors. They are the people that we should be having relationships with. And just figuring out how can we get the police to be able to drag them over to the other side of the island, it's not going to solve the problem."
Even after the meeting wrapped up following two hours of discussion, everyone still agreed the work wasn't going to be put on pause.
Nakoa Pabre, owner of Umekes, said something he would like to see and thinks can get done is an increase in police presence, such as foot or bike patrols, saying that businesses shouldn't have to pay more out of their pockets to hire private security.
He also said his issue is specific to those people who are committing crimes, saying it's those who "don't want help" who are causing the problems.
"I think the ball is in the county's hands to step up and show something being done and then showing us that we're being heard," Pabre said.
Pabre spearheaded the grassroots movement last month. About an hour before the 6 p.m. Monday meeting began, a person threw a rock through plate-glass windows at the Umekes currently under construction on Pawai Place, according to Stefanie Gubser, operations manager at Manini Holdings, which oversees the 6-acre area.
The individual was served a trespass notice shortly before the incident. Witnesses tried to detain him before police arrived, but he fled on foot.
Villegas said it's "become very apparent" that there are opportunities for legislation on matters such as loitering and public intoxication.
The meetings are expected to continue, and the Councilwoman said she wants an upcoming meeting to include more people and groups working in health fields, acknowledging that the lack of mental health services and substance use treatment facilities "is a key component."
She also said she wants the chief of police and captains to be involved in future meetings. And for residents who are looking for solutions, she said, it's important they keep coming to be heard.
"Keep coming," she said. "Be a part of the process."
Puna district moves from disaster response to disaster recovery, says Habitat for Humanity Hawaii Island

Monday, June 10th 2019
by  KITV Web Staff
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - One year later, and the Puna district is moving from disaster response to disaster recovery, says the Habitat for Humanity Hawaii Island.

Local agencies are finding permanent solutions to meet long-term recovery needs through funding from Habitat/Puna Recovery supporters, fundraising efforts of Hilo native and St. Louis Cardinals baseball player, Kolten Wong, Habitat for Humanity Hawaii Island and more.
A Pahoa family lost their home during their home to lava during the eruption, and agencies, businesses, individuals and volunteer teams helped to meet the needs of the disabled, medically fragile household member and senior primary caregiver.

A ramp, deck, doorway and extended roof were installed with the assistance of HOPE Services, Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Aloha Independent Living Hawaii, Legal Aid Society, FEMA, Neighborhood Place of Puna, Habitat for Humanity Hawaii Island, Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and HPM Building Supply.