Tidbits and Thoughts . . .  Legal Aid's Online  News
December 20, 2019

Wishing you and your ohana a Happy Holiday Season!

Legal Aid Society of Hawaii Holiday Card 2019
"Country Justice"

Now on to Tidbits!
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" I now have resolve and closure to perhaps a dangerous relationship . . ."

Before I came to Legal Aid I was without legal representation, am disabled, and filing for legal separation from my spouse due to domestic violence problems. I had no financial support other than disability and DHS food stamps $30 a month. My ex had come to court filing divorce, as well as false allegations. 

Legal Aid helped me to become organized and focused in my legal goals, mediate with my ex's legal representation, represented me well in court, and also supported me emotionally through a very difficult process. 

Because of Legal Aid, I now have resolve and closure to perhaps a dangerous relationship to my health/life. 

What I want people to know about Legal Aid is that Ke Akua (God) does work through many people and situations. Legal Aid (Ben) was a huge blessing in my life.  I believe I could not have managed as well without such support. - Jenn was helped by Maui Legal Aid attorney Ben Pittenger to escape a dangerous relationship.

"Before  you  came into the picture I was in financial despair."

"I can't even describe the depth of my gratitude to  you guys. Before  you came into the picture I was in financial despair. I had lost all my life savings between the Valley Fire and the LERZ eruption. I was filing for bankruptcy (I still need to) and I just couldn't get ahead.  

The money I now got from FEMA is truly a game-changer for me. It gives me a chance to rebuild my life here.  THANK  YOU!" -  Disaster Legal Services attorney Melissa Goldman assisted the client in receiving rental assistance from FEMA to aid in recovery from the 2018 Kilauea volcanic disaster.

AmeriCorps Conference 2019

AmeriCorps is a nationwide community service program that fosters the spirit of community development and volunteerism across the country. AmeriCorps members throughout the state came together for the Hawaii Volunteer Summit in Honolulu. Legal Aid's  AmeriCorps advocates joined other members in a three day conference that included training sessions and a day of community service.

Honolulu AmeriCorps members Macy and Dominique help with weed abatement activities near  Diamond Head State Park.

Kukui Center Holiday Party
Legal Aid Board President Joseph Boivin joined Legal Aid staff members Tatjana, Leeyannah, and Susan at the Kukui Center Holiday Party and Partnership Appreciation Luncheon. 

Thank you to John Clark, William S. Richardson School of Law student extern
John with Dan O'Meara, managing attorney for the Honolulu Housing & Consumer Unit

Thank you to John Clark for spending part of his semester in the Honolulu Bethel office as part of his law school externship. John assisted the Housing & Consumer Unit, the Legal Navigator online portal project, and the disaster legal services. John is completing his last year at the William S. Richardson School of Law.   

Legal Aid Holiday Puns
Courtesy of the Fair Housing Unit

Mele Kalikimaka from the Hilo Legal Aid ʻOhana
The Hilo Legal Aid ʻOhana wishes you all a Mele Kalikimaka a me Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou!  

Congratulations! GAL of the Year Award

The Children's Law Project of Hawaiʻi, in coordination with the Family Court, presented Hilo Legal Aid staff attorney Jaycee Yamashita with the Guardian Ad Litem ("GAL") of the Year Award at the December 15, 2019 GAL Appreciation Event. The event was attended by GALs, Deputy Attorneys General, parents' counsels, community members, and Judges Darien Nagata and Jeff Hawk and Per Diem Judge Charles Hite.

The GAL of the Year Award was presented to Jaycee by Judges Darien Nagata and Jeff Hawk, along with the Executive Director of the Children's Law Project, Valerie Grab.
DV 101 Training - Civil Remedies for Survivors of DV

Hilo Legal Aid staff members Jaycee and Dalton presented to staff from the Island of Hawaii YMCA on the topic of "Civil Remedies for Victims of Domestic Violence" as part of the DV 101 Training being offered by the Hawaiʻi State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. YMCA employees often supervise court-ordered visits at the YMCA and were appreciative of the information. 

Keolahou Blessing/Grand Opening

Jasmine and Dalton attended the blessing ceremony for the Grand Opening of Keolahou - The Healing Place, at which Legal Aid was acknowledged as a Community Partner.  The Hilo Legal Aid office is excited to have Jasmine doing regular outreach at Keolahou, which is an emergency homeless shelter recently established at the old Hilo Memorial Hospital.  Keolahou provides emergency shelter and services to men, who make up the greatest portion of those experiencing homelessness on Hawaiʻi Island.

Other Community Partners include Hawaii Island HIV/AIDS Foundation, Arc of Hilo, The Food Basket, Hawaiian Community Assets, and Project Vision, which provide an array of services for Keolahou residents, including medical care, job training and placement, financial, legal, insurance enrollment, food supplies, clothing and hygiene services.

In the News
Security Deposits Put Housing Out Of Reach For Some In Hawaii
As housing costs rise, renters have to cut bigger and bigger checks just to get in the door

By Christina Jedra

Ann Albert didn't know how she was going to pay for her security deposit. 
After years in a homeless shelter with her three  children, she secured a coveted Housing Choice voucher and found a place willing to rent to her family. 
She could make the subsidized monthly rent of $200. Her income from a food service job in Waikiki brought in about $500 to $600 per month. 
But the security deposit was the full value of the rent: $1,998. She just didn't have it. 
"It was very difficult," she said in Chuukese through a translator at Legal Aid Society of Hawaii. "At that time, I was the only one working and even with my pay, I couldn't afford the first month's rent in addition to the security deposit." 
In a state that has  among the highest housing costs in the nation, the working poor in Hawaii struggle every day not only with the cost of rent but also the cost of just getting in the door.
Ann Albert had a housing voucher but no deposit money.

State law allows security deposits to be of equal value to the rent. So as rents rise faster than wages, renters have to overcome higher and higher obstacles by paying their rent - times two - all at once.

Even if a tenant is supposed to have an old deposit returned to them from the unit they're leaving, landlords have 14 days to return it after the tenant has vacated the property. That means many renters need to put down a fresh security deposit on a new place before they get their old one back - if they get it at all.

A Legal Aid attorney said that it's not uncommon for landlords to keep part or all of a deposit for damages whether they're real or not. Continue reading . . . .
HOPE Services opens new Hilo shelter for homeless men
By: Hawaii Catholic Herald

An old Hilo hospital is now a new shelter and assessment center for homeless men on the Big Island, run by HOPE Services Hawaii, a non-profit agency affiliated with the Diocese of Honolulu.
The blessing and opening of Keolahou shelter was Nov. 8.
The facility, at 34 Rainbow Drive in Hilo, is the same building as the old Hilo Memorial Hospital, which has changed faces over the years. Most recently it was home to Hawaii Island Adult Care and the University of Hawaii-Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy. Both moved out earlier this year.
The building will serve people once again, thanks to $2.5 million in Ohana Zone funds from the State of Hawaii.
The shelter opened with 25 cots. It hopes to increase its capacity to 50 in January, depending on whether it can procure all the needed beds and utilities by then.
The former hospital was picked as the location of the Big Island's first Ohana Zone, because of its size, layout and proximity to downtown Hilo.
In 2018, state legislators appropriated $30 million to establish at least three Ohana Zone sites on Oahu, and one each on the Big Island, Maui and Kauai.
Ohana Zones are sites on state and county land designated to provide services for homeless individuals and families and to help them find permanent housing.
At Keolahou, the assessment center will give residents a case manager and other services they need to find affordable housing and to connect them to the support they need to remain housed. Individuals will be able to stay at Keolahou for up to 90 days.
Men make up the greatest proportion of those experiencing homelessness on Hawaii Island.
HOPE Services Hawaii is working in collaboration with Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council, Project Vision, Bay Clinic, Hawaii Island HIV/AIDS Foundation, the Food Basket Inc., Arc of Hilo, Hawaiian Community Assets, and Legal Aid Society of Hawaii.
For example, Keolahou's partnership with Bay Clinic, a federally qualified health center serving East Hawaii, will bring medical care on site once or twice a month. Giving participants regular medical checkups will reduce the strain on emergency services.
HOPE already operates other Big Island shelters that serve families, couples and single women.
Last year, 70% of shelter residents who entered a HOPE shelter moved into permanent housing.
The County of Hawaii is planning two additional Ohana Zone sites in Kailua-Kona, which will offer similar services to those in West Hawaii.