A disabled couple in Kalihi Valley Homes public housing faces eviction and homelessness due to their son’s involvement in a violent altercation earlier this year.
Although the son, 22-year-old Laupo Kivaha, no longer lives on the premises, the Hawaii Public Housing Authority is moving forward with evicting his parents, Sipu Kivaha and Wanda Sitani.
Sipu Kivaha, 54, is a diabetic who needs a breathing machine to survive, wears leg braces and suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome. Sitani is blind in the left eye and has multiple sclerosis.
"We’re not the people who committed the crime," Sitani said. "We’re the victims. … If we do get evicted, we gonna stay in the car. And how is my husband going to survive?"
The couple filed an appeal of the eviction in Circuit Court on Thursday and is asking for a stay on the housing agency’s decision. They are represented by attorney Jeffrey Hawk, a past president of Adult Friends for Youth who sits on the board of directors.
Denise Wise, the housing agency’s executive director, declined to comment and said she could only confirm that the agency is in the process of evicting the couple.
"I really can’t speak to the subject at this time because everything is still in process," she said.
Adult Friends for Youth, a nonprofit that works with high-risk youths, got involved because of Laupo Kivaha’s past association with gang violence.
In March, a man from Kuhio Park Terrace approached Laupo Kivaha’s home to pick a fight. Kivaha’s mother said her son was acting in self-defense. Laupo Kivaha fought with the aggressor, sending him to the hospital. No charges were ever filed against Kivaha.
At that point, Kivaha had already begun to turn his life around, said Adult Friends for Youth’s founder Sid Rosen. Kivaha is attending Honolulu Community College to become an electrician, and he has shown "great aptitude for math."
"The basic issue of the eviction is that Laupo was involved in a criminal act, but the fact of the matter is there were never any charges against him," Rosen said. "So what it comes down to is that a criminal act is whatever HPHA says it is."
HPHA is the state’s largest affordable-housing landlord, overseeing more than 5,000 federally funded and 863 state-funded public housing units. Most evictions in public housing are for overdue rent.
Sitani said she has not been behind on rent. She said she believes the move for eviction stems from long-standing disagreements she’s had with the agency on maintenance and other issues.
"I’ve been in the same building, the same unit, never moved," she said, adding she’s lived in her unit for 22 years. "They never listened to our story. Two witnesses gave statements and they were not even there. They didn’t see anything."
Rosen said Adult Friends got involved because it was appalled by what he characterizes as "absolutely no compassion" for the couple, who asked their son to move out despite the fact he was their main caregiver.
"If they’re evicted, it’s like a death sentence for him," Rosen said of the husband’s situation. "They would have no place to go but the street. … This is the kind of thing you can’t leave to chance. You have the lives of two very, very vulnerable people that are at stake."