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Opportunity Youth Find Culture and Resilience at Lydia House

Opportunity Youth Find Culture and Resilience at Lydia House

ʻŌpio from Lydia House enjoyed a learning trip to Iolani Palace in February 2024.

Holli M.'s first visit to Iolani Palace was in February 2024. The 22-year-old student shared her milestone moment with a small group of peers who, like her, are beneficiaries of Liliʻuokalani  Trust.

ʻŌpio, such as Holli, find a sense of place and empowerment when they can identify with their Native Hawaiian roots. “I was mesmerized by the structure,” Holli says. ”There was a deeper connection for me, especially as a Native Hawaiian. One of the Hawaiian values I learned on the visit was pono, to be responsible and respectful. Iʻm hoping to be responsible with my schoolwork to help me live a better life.”

The palace excursion is an example of Native Hawaiian-focused programs by Lydia House.

Located in an L-shaped building outside of downtown Honolulu, Lydia House is a puʻuhonua (haven) for ʻōpio in early adulthood.

Their needs are diverse as their ages, 16-26. Some are involved in systems, including foster care and correctional programs. Others are houseless.  

Often, systems-involved minors lose critical services like healthcare and housing, simply because they “age out” at 18. Lydia House is the life preserver they need for a successful future.

In addition to support from Lydia Houseʻs 10-person team, the ʻōpio have access to:

The team is led by Executive Director Marty A. Oliphant. “I am so grateful to serve in an organization that supports innovative programs that uplift and create opportunities and pathways to elevate youth from trauma to thriving,” he says.

One youth is a 19-year-old male who arrived at Lydia House earlier this year after experiencing houselessness. “I got to know a lot about myself,” he says, wrapped in a scarf and beanie that he found in a bin of clothes at Lydia House. That week, a cold front on Oʻahu sent nighttime temperatures into the low 60s.

He reignited his childhood passion for the arts — the first spark in a very long time — thanks to programs at Lydia House. “I played the piano here and got to design a hat with graffiti art and made it for someone who is really close to me,” he says.

Another male, 22, says he is grateful for the unconditional support at Lydia House. “Many of the staff here are nice to everybody, good people,” he says. “I get into air conditioning, eat food, and take a shower. It’s a good place.”  

Their stories are the result of strategic planning by the trust. In July 2018, the trust purchased the Lydia House building and parcel in downtown Honolulu, located one block away from the former Royal School, where Queen Liliʻuokalani and other children of aliʻi were educated by missionaries in the mid-1800s.

After the purchase and renovation of the building, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. Lydia House and nonprofit group Hale Kipa partnered in June 2020 to assist youth through emergency housing. Lydia House became fully operational in February 2023.

This year, Lydia House is scheduled to open the Huliau Program, designed to help youth develop careers, secure stable housing, and learn skills needed to become independent adults. Huliau will provide dorm rooms, which can accommodate up to 40 residents ages 18-22, once the program is fully operational.

The launch of Huliau was years in the making. “Lili'uokalani Trust had the foresight to invest and develop programs and services to serve our most vulnerable youth,” Oliphant says.   


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Wednesdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.