Hawaii's Forgotten Families Foundation
When outsiders from around the world think of Hawaii, they imagine sunny beaches, exotic jungles and forests, exciting tourist attractions, island adventures, and pool side relaxation at luxurious hotel resorts. But there is another side of our island paradise that many tourists are beginning to notice that we, as local residents, come face to face with on a daily basis... The rapidly growing homeless population. In fact, Hawaii has the dubious honor of being Number One in the nation (per capita) for homelessness. A 2015 census reported that our island state has 487 homeless individuals per 100,000 people, with the number rising sharply every year since 2010, even as national rates have fallen. (1)
Every night, homeless families all over Hawaii are sleeping in tents and makeshift shelters. They camp in our parks and on beaches, living in cars and under bridges and freeway off ramps. Transportation is challenging at best, and their dignity erodes each day.
The majority of our state’s homeless population falls into a few, sometimes overlapping, categories: the chronic drug and alcohol addicts, the mentally ill, the mentally unstable and psychologically challenged, the 'unemployables', such as ex-convicts and injured veterans, and those that do not work and survive on government assistance.
Our mission is to serve a very important segment of the homeless population not considered above. This category of homeless people has been tragically overlooked, marginalized, and almost forgotten, when they should have been receiving special attention and care long ago. We recognize this group as 'the working poor’. We have targeted working parent(s) with minor children of all ages as the beneficiary demographic that we are working for. Specifically, these forgotten families are the focus of Hawaii’s Forgotten Families Foundation and we will significantly and permanently change their lives.
Although a small percentage of the homeless population, this group finds themselves in their current state due to the economic realities in Hawaii: high cost of living vs low income wages. A 2015 Homeless Service Utilization Report issued by the Center on Family at the University of Hawaii concluded that, out of the 4,005 new homeless adults that sought services that year, one in five was gainfully employed (2). Another report by The National Low-income Housing Coalition, which compares minimum wage vs. housing costs, found that on a minimum wage salary of $8.50 an hour, the worker could only afford to pay $440 a month for rent and that the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Hawaii was $1,194. The report went on to conclude that for an apartment at that price, a worker would need to either earn $22.96 an hour, or work 108 hours a week on minimum wage, which is two and a half full-time jobs. (3)
This is the crippling economic situation that many employed homeless people are struggling with. Many of them are families, parents with small children as young as toddlers. They are willing and able to work part-time or full-time jobs but are still unable to afford even the most modest housing on their limited income. Their children, if they are fortunate enough to attend school, are often forced to read and do homework by flashlight or under street lamps. These children can go days without clean clothes or a nutritious meal.
Very often these homeless parents may be doing everything right; working minimum wage jobs and utilizing resources for families in need. These families fight each day to maintain a sense of normalcy and dignity for their children, yet despite all their efforts, they still spend their nights either on the streets or in homeless shelters. Our society, faced with the evidence of these forgotten families, has not responded with enough assistance to make any meaningful difference for this group. We feel for these families but the problem appears insurmountable, and we are at a loss as to what we can do to help... until now.
Hawaii’s Forgotten Families Foundation (HFFF) is a newly formed philanthropic organization. The goal of this group is to design, develop and build permanent subdivision housing for qualified homeless families that meet two base criteria: 1) Single or dual parent families where permanent employment has been established, and 2) where the same parents have maintained custody and currently have minor children living with them in their care.
Using a "village" community model, this gated 300 unit subdivision will be built on approximately 15 acres of land, with a community center, 24 hour guarded gates, swimming pool, basketball court, and dog park.
The aim of HFFF is to build a safe, family friendly, drug-free community where property ownership is possible in these harsh economic times. Each member of HFFF brings a different life experience and expertise to the foundation, and together they form a team with the vision to see the hardships and homelessness of these forgotten families come to an end, and their lives changed for the better.