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Sep 02, 2020

Lili'uokalani Trust houses Native Hawaiians impacted by Coronavirus crisis

Wednesday marks Queen Lili'uokalani's 182nd birthday--and her lasting legacy is now helping Native Hawaiians who were hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.

Wednesday, September 2nd 2020, 7:45 PM HST by 'A'ali'i Dukelow | KITV

Wednesday marks Queen Lili'uokalani's 182nd birthday--and her lasting legacy is now helping Native Hawaiians who were hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. 

Lydia's House, a namesake of Hawai'i's last ruling monarch, is a transitional housing project funded by the trust she left behind. Since officially opening its doors in June, all 18 of its units have been filled, housing 42 young Native Hawaiian adults who had no place to call home after the pandemic hit. 

"Right when COVID struck, I was struggling on Kaua'i, living in the foster system, aging out, and not knowing where I was going to be," Ehukai Goias-Medeiros said. 

But the 19-year-old said he has struggled his whole life. When he wasn't in the foster system, he was out on the streets--and when the pandemic hit, he was out of a job. 

"(I) Couldn't finish my high school year in class, so I had to do everything online, was hard to finish my senior project," Goias-Medeiros recalled. 

"It was especially hard getting back up knowing that I'm going to have a baby soon."

For the past 11 years, Goias-Medeiros has been a beneficiary under the Lili'uokalani Trust, and was offered to live at Lydia's House. He called the opportunity a blessing, and decided to move to Honolulu to live near his pregnant girlfriend, who resides in Makaha.

According to staff, the other 41 tenants at Lydia's House have experienced homelessness, domestic violence, and mental health crises. 

"These would have been your entry wage workforce in the hospitality industry, food and beverage, retail, and a lot of them just didn't have those opportunities because COVID affected them. COVID is what actually put them into a crisis," Lydia's House executive director Kimo Carvalho said. 

To help mitigate that crisis, tenants are charged a nominal fee and receive financial literacy, counseling, and case management services. Carvalho said they are also planning to add temporary shelter and an arrest diversion program for 14 to 17-year-old children by next year. 

"Without Lydia's House, I would not be able to imagine a future for myself," Goias-Medeiros said.

"Growing up without a family, Lydia's House is my family. 

According to the state point-in-time count, more than half of the homeless population in Hawai'i identify as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander as of this year. 

Lydia's House is trying to change that, and Goias-Medeiros is living proof. 

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