Leading them home


Anuhea and Doug Josue say their ‘ohana’s journey to a better life became real five years ago. With just one household income to support them and their two young keiki, they struggled to make ends meet. The Josues found themselves living out of their car during the day, and spending nights with a family member who was also struggling. Soon, they were homeless, staying at a transitional shelter in Wai‘anae.

“We found ourselves with nowhere to go,” said Anuhea.

But they wouldn’t give up. They set and reached goals, got closer as a family and even expanded their ‘ohana with a set of twins. Then last year, with the help from OHA housing grantee Hawaiian Community Assets, the Josues were able to purchase a home in Hilo, completing an inspirational journey from homelessness to homeownership.

“It’s been long, tough, exhausting, crazy,” Anuhea said of their journey.

“Every day, just go all in,” Doug said. “Sometimes you gotta get down before you get up.”

From homelessness to homeownership

For Anuhea, staying in the Wai‘anae-based shelter was difficult, because it was expensive and had so many rules and other issues. “It felt like we were in prison,” she said. “But that was the goal. Get out of there, and never ever turn back.”

While in the shelter, the Josues were able to access a network of social services programs. It was through this network that the Josues hooked up with HCA.

Together with their HCA counselors, the Josues set a savings goal of $1,800 for first month’s rent and deposit and started setting aside $40 from every paycheck. HCA also helped them start building up their credit through a loan from HCA’s lending arm, Hawai‘i Community Lending.

By November 2014, the family’s completion of HCA programs qualified them for the City and County of Honolulu’s Rent-to-Work program. The program provided the Josues with rental assistance so they could secure an apartment for $1,200 per month but only have to pay $617 a month for the first year.

HCA taught the Josues better spending habits and how to save money. A lot of it was simple, and common sense. They ate at home, unplugged unused electronics, turned off the lights and water. They only drove when they needed to. Doug even started rolling his own cigarettes.

“With HCA, they kinda point you where you gotta go and what you gotta do,” said Anuhea. “So with that it kinda kept me in line. And then me keeping everyone else in the family in line.”

Anuhea continued: “But we did good because we would go without certain things. Just so that we would have money to go towards a home one day. And we did it.”

By April 2018, Josues saved more than $4,000, qualifying them for a USDA mortgage loan to purchase a three-bedroom single family home in Hilo.

Sitting in her house, Anuhea says she’s still surprised by their journey.

“It’s a weird feeling, it’s shocking,” she said. “I’m still tripping out. This actually belongs to my name. I have something that […] we worked for. Just calling it yours and affording something in Hawai‘i. It’s the most craziest thing in the world.”

Hawaiians struggle in their homelands

Recent data shows that the Josues’ story is a familiar one for Native Hawaiian families.

Native Hawaiians are more likely than non-Native Hawaiians to live in public housing (19.6% to 12.8%); receive Section 8 rental assistance (13.1% to 5.9%); be doubled up with another family in a home (24.8% to 9.6%); and be considered hidden homeless (14.1% to 4.2%). Moreover, Native Hawaiians are over-represented in the population of homeless service clients, comprising 30.5 percent of total homeless service clients in 2015 while representing 20.8 percent of total the state population.

Data shows that for most of our beneficiaries, housing insecurity is related to their low family income. For example, even though Native Hawaiians participate in the labor force at higher rates than the state average, Native Hawaiians earn significantly less per capita than the state average.

“The cost of living in Hawai‘i is one of the highest in the nation, and the local housing market can be challenging,” said OHA Public Policy Manager Jocelyn Doane. “For our beneficiaries, even though you work hard, if your income is low and you live from paycheck to paycheck, all it takes is one emergency or a few small setbacks piled on each other, and you can end up houseless. Unfortunately, that’s the sad reality for many Native Hawaiians trying to survive in our kulāiwi (homeland) today.”

Over the last decade, OHA has provided more than $40 million to support the housing security needs of Native Hawaiians. In addition to developing affordable housing and supporting transitional shelters, OHA funding has gone to non-profits like Hawaiian Community Assets that teach low-income Native Hawaiian families better spending and saving habits that are critical to ensure stable housing.

This upcoming legislative session, OHA will again request the state to partner up to jointly fund housing programs for Native Hawaiians in need. In addition, OHA will continue to advocate for an increase to its annual share of Public Land Trust revenues to provide more funds to the community to help with housing and other programs. Check in at www.oha.org, OHA’s Facebook account and future Ka Wai Ola issues for information about how you can help OHA advocate at the Legislature for additional resources for Native Hawaiians.

Learn more

Watch a video of the Josues’ story: vimeo.com/ohahawaii