Lydia’s House: Advocacy Lite

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Photo: Penn Pantumsinchai

For decades, Native Hawaiian youth have been consistently overrepresented in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, and among the homeless in Hawaiʻi. While the numbers have improved recently, the continuing overrepresentation highlights critical flaws within Hawaiʻi’s system of care: the gap in local services for youth in crisis (e.g., long term housing for youth, emergency shelters, drop-in centers, etc.) and lack of an integrated system to provide continuity of care to support the successful transition of these youth as they enter adulthood.

To address these gaps, Liliʻuokalani Trust (LT) launched a yearlong collaboration with organizations serving youth engaged with, or at-risk for engagement, with these systems. Lydia’s House is a result of that collaboration.

Photo: Lydia's House
Two residents of Lydia’s House enjoy an outing to Nā Mea Kūpono kalo farm in Waialua, as part of an ‘āina activity with LT staff to learn about loʻi and kalo, and to contribute their labor. – Photo: Courtesy

It opened in June 2020 and is operated in partnership with Hale Kipa. Lydia’s House is an innovative, transitional housing program helping youth with three main target vulnerabilities: aging out of foster care, homelessness, and juvenile justice involvement. Lydia’s House uses holistic and youth-centric approaches to provide housing and wraparound services (e.g., programs that address physical health, mental wellbeing, education and vocational training, finances, and basic life skills) tailored to youth in crisis.

Since its opening, Lydia’s House has housed 42 young adults and children affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. One couple told staff that moving to Lydia’s House allowed them to leave a violent living situation, and that having an apartment unit of their own with privacy and security was an exciting opportunity. Another kāne resident expressed how the resident community “has a good Hawaiian fellowship,” echoing many other residents who appreciate the cultural grounding of the programs and activities.

While providing immediate support for youth in crisis, the long-term goal of Lydia’s House is to address the root causes of intergeneration poverty across the social ecosystem by expanding the reach and impact of innovative services and programs. Breaking the cycle of poverty requires both system intervention and innovative diversion programs.

As LT implements its 2020-2025 strategic plan, the Lydia’s House demonstration project is vital to testing and illustrating the effectiveness of this approach to supporting youth in crisis. Lydia’s House’s 2021 plans include opening a shelter for minors ages 14 to 17 years, as well as piloting a status arrest diversion program, along with many other culture-based programs tailored to youth struggling with the transition to adulthood.

For more information, go to: onipaa.org.


Penn Pantumsinchai is a Research & Evaluation manager at Liliʻuokalani Trust with the Research, Evaluation & Strategy team. She received her master’s and doctorate in sociology from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mänoa. She is a co-host of an educational sociology podcast, “The Social Breakdown” (www.thesocialbreakdown.com), which aims to bring the sociological perspective to the general public in a fun, accessible, and informative way.