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Students hope homeless people’s personal stories sway landlords


    McKinley High School students Lillyann Frederick, left, Charleston Irebaria, Frank Pang, Donavan Albano, Joseph Abe and Naomi-Kehaulani Franklin met Wednesday to plan an appeal to encourage landlords to rent to the homeless.

No less than Gov. David Ige and Mayor Kirk Caldwell have pleaded with Oahu landlords to open their rental properties to homeless tenants, but a group of McKinley High School students wants to add a more intimate and personal appeal.

They’re organizing a May 28 landlord summit at Catholic Charities’ Keeaumoku Street headquarters and plan to tell the stories of homeless people who would benefit from a landlord willing to take a chance on them.

“Homelessness is growing and growing and growing,” said Charleston Irebaria, a 17-year-old McKinley senior. “I felt we could make a difference in the community.”

There’s much work left to be done between now and May 28 for Irebaria and his classmates at McKinley’s Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders program: Lillyann Fredrick, Frank Pang and Naomi-Kehaulani Franklin, who are all 17; and 16-year-olds Donavan Albano and Joseph Abe. All are juniors at McKinley.


May 28’s Landlord Summit will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Catholic Charities’ Clarence T.C. Ching Campus, 1822 Keeaumoku St.

Email mhslandlord or call 594-0939 for more information.

They hope to send letters to 300 landlords who attended last year’s summit organized by Ige and Caldwell to get them to also turn out to the Catholic Charities event. Then they plan to follow up with personal phone calls on the eve of the summit.

The students are following the same so-called Housing First philosophy embraced by Ige and Caldwell, which includes social service help for homeless people’s problems, which could include counseling for mental illness and for drug and alcohol addiction.

But the students also hope to interview homeless clients at Kakaako’s Next Step shelter and use their stories to “appeal to the empathy of landlords,” Pang said.

Irebaria contends there’s a “big gap” between homeless and nonhomeless people.

By presenting landlords with the stories of Honolulu’s homeless, Irebaria said, “we wish to create a one-to-one connection.”

April Nakamura, McKinley’s student activities coordinator, who runs the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders program, said, “People have done landlord summits before. But this group is not about just bringing landlords together and telling them to house people. They’re going to give landlords personal accounts and testimony of the homeless people. It’s more personal. … These kids have a big heart, and they’re very passionate about it.”

Homeless people regularly come to McKinley’s campus at night and on weekends, and Nakamura’s students said they’re regularly reminded to be alert.

But the students at McKinley’s Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders also know that each homeless person has an individual story, and Albano has even had family members who have been homeless.

For Albano “it’s more than just a personal thing,” he said. “It’s the thought that I can help.”

Fredrick added, “People need a second chance to restart their lives.”

The students form just one of six groups at McKinley’s Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders that are working on community projects. The projects include dealing with depression among senior citizens by, among other activities, hosting a “senior prom” for them; writing pen-pal letters to homeless teens at Waikiki Health’s Youth Outreach Center in Waikiki and organizing a clothing drive at McKinley for clothes that would appeal to Youth Outreach’s homeless teens; and teaching leadership skills to students at Queen Kaahumanu and Lanakila elementary schools.

Catholic Charities last year worked with another group from the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders to sponsor a landlord summit that attracted about 25 landlords, many of whom committed to renting a unit to a chronically homeless person.

“Through the previous landlord summit, we were able to place some folks,” said Rona Fukumoto, Catholic Charities’ division administrator for housing assistance and referral programs.

Fukumoto likes the idea behind the McKinley students’ landlord summit for two reasons:

“We definitely like to see students getting involved and understanding the issue,” she said. “The better they understand, the better advocates they can be.”

And Fukumoto appreciates the idea of appealing to landlords through the stories of actual people who would benefit from a rental apartment.

“Any positive message that can help landlords is something we want to be involved in,” she said.

“There are a lot of of misconceptions about the type of person or the issues that’ll arise in housing a person who might need Housing First services, or just anyone who’s homeless,” Fukumoto said. “These students want to give landlords a different perspective by introducing the clients … on a human level.”

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  • The kids have to understand, sad stories don’t pay the rent.
    If Gov. David Ige and Mayor Kirk Caldwell would sign the rental agreement I think that might work. Pay 1st and last months rent a huge damage deposit and fill out a background check with weekly visits from the landlord.
    Take the kids to a rental that’s been destroyed by bad tenant, even better have them clean up the mess and pay for the repairs.

    • The students are delusional. I would give a homeless a good deal, but reality is: Already regular tenants nowadays are often bad and damaging your mood and finances. The percentage of homeless being bad or brain-damaged is many times greater: That’s why they are homeless. If a state agency would take financial responsibility for the tenant I would rent to a homeless.

      • Plus, if they’re homeless then they probably have little to no income and no assets. So when (not if) they trash the place, you can’t even recover. And they don’t have future careers to worry about, so they don’t care about damage to their reputations either. They can pretty much do anything they want to trash the place, and there’s nothing the landlord can do to recover. Why don’t the families of these bleeding heart students invite the homeless to live with them for free? That would be the compassionate thing.

  • Future dem leaders. Emotion over facts and substance.

    And like dems, I see it isn’t their money or homes that they want opened up. It’s somebody else’s.

  • Housed many family and friends over the last 40 years. Most was good experiences and they got their feet on the ground and tool care of business. But, the sad story with no end comes around once in a while. You have to be firm and gave a plan. Don’t follow the plan, you got to go!

  • “Fredrick added, “People need a second chance to restart their lives.”>>> The gesture on behalf of these kids is admirable. That being said, they are going to learn that this is not about a “second” chance. Most of these people have already had that and more. Do you know how many bridges you have to burn to have no friends or family there to help you out…anymore?

  • Why would anybody in their right mind rent to homeless when “housing first” means the homeless don’t have to give up drugs? Landlords can lose their property to government seizure if the tenant is involved in any drug deals. Neighbors can sue the landlord for the nuisance caused by the drug users. If it’s happening on the mainland, how much easier would it be in lawsuit-happy Hawaii to hold the landlords responsible? If anyone feels morally compelled to rent to the homeless, good for you. You must believe in Jesus. But you’re still a fool.

  • No amount of sad stories would compel me to rent to a homeless individual or indiviuals much less a family. Nope……I live in a condo complex where homeless people under Sec. 8 or other vouchers rented an apt. and I, would never, I repeat, would never rent to these homeless souls esp. after seeing the trouble the landlords or owners of their apt. tried to evict these so-called sad stories of people….nope…not after seeing the legal issues and complex red-tape one has to go through in evicting these people……i saw the damages and the utter disrepair these people left the apt. when they eventually did move out and it was a COMPLETE MESS………nothing more and nothing less.

  • Good luck convincing landlords the homeless and section 8 track record puts you way behind the eight ball. You probably will have to start off in a run down area, do good there and get a good reference.

  • sad stories are just that. If the sad truth is exposed for what really was the downfall for those individuals the students could possibly learn something.

  • There is another side to every story. Perhaps it is time for these students to see the reality of the homeless issue. Go and help small shop owners clean the human waste left in their doorways after the homeless person who slept there the night before shambles off. Talk to a landlord about property taxes, water and sewage fees, insurance premiums, and the general excise tax, see how much a landlord actually makes from their rentals. Hear stories of going to court to evict someone who is behind on their rent, and finding that the courts are pro-renter, basically telling the landlord that they have to suck it up until this person can find other accommodations. Keep in mind that the landlord isn’t collecting rental payments but still paying for everything aforementioned. The state doesn’t care if tenants are paying or not, they want their slice. The utilities don’t care, the insurance company does not care if you are not making an income they want their money. It’s great to think with your heart and be compassionate, but real life is harsh. Future leaders from public schools are following their adult role models too closely. Very easy to talk, to pontificate, to dial in a number to get support. Very difficult to actually roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty.

  • teach children how to solve problems vs possible political bullying …for the future leaders aloha .maybe the root causes will be addressed .

  • As a prospective landlord, I would NOT personally rent to homeless, just became homeless or not. A clean credit check and regular employment is a must. Sure I have a heart and emotions, but that doesn’t pay the bills and there is no free ride here.

    I’ve seen first hand the homeless destruction all over the island as well as nearby where I live, no, a firm no, I would not even consider it.

  • So far these comments are hard, harsh truths…..WWJD…..what would Jesus do?

    We talked about this in church on Saturday………no solutions, just a lot of talk.

    I will light a candle, pray really hard, then roll up my sleeves and go pickup roadside litter…….come join me.

    • I’m missing the part in the Bible where Jesus was a landlord.

      I’m thinking he would say something about treating others and their property as you would want others to treat you and your property. And also not to mess up the planet which was a gift to us from the Big Dude.

  • The students should ask their parents to open their homes to the homeless. The students can share their bedrooms with the homeless. Good luck!

  • “April Nakamura, McKinley’s student activities coordinator, who runs the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders program”…..hey April, perhaps you should focus these students on the importance of education, working hard, and living within one’s means! I realize that some people have suffered unfortunate circumstances be it healthwise, jobwise, or similar whereby its not all their fault, yet believe that the majority of homeless are in their predicament because of bad life choices.

    I see so many 20-30 something year old homeless individuals at major intersections around town begging for money. Prior generations would work a second or even third job to provide for their family. This generation just sticks their hand out expecting help and hard working citizens are tired of it.

  • These kids will quickly learn what “reality” is. Why would a landlord rent a room or apartment to a homeless person? They have a hard enough time getting normal people to take care of the property. On top of that, their other renters are going to start complaining about having homeless next door. Then, insurance rates are going to rise due to higher risk tenants.

    Homeless need to go to the shelters or to designated areas where homeless housing is available.

  • These students obviously have lots to learn about reality in the real world, value of education and hard work, consequences of wrong choices, and ownership of one’s destiny. Good luck.

  • I believe that the students are on the right track because they are finding out from the homeless directly why they are homeless. I don’t know how the government is going to solve this problem if they keep taking surveys from the non-homeless and asking them why they think the homeless are homeless. There are probably many different stories and causes and a case by case analysis would be more effective.



  • Sad commentary on how deficient our public school system is in teaching our children how to think and analyze problems. If you have been a landlord, you know how financially and emotionally devastating it can be to have a tenant who fails to pay rent and refuses to move without a court order because they have no where to go. It takes months to evict someone who disputes the nonpayment of rent and they will usually trash the place before they leave. These students should ask their parents to take in one homeless person each and charge $100/month rent and see how long they make the payments and how hard it is to get tenant to leave …. if you talk the talk then walk the walk before burdening and trying to make others feel responsible for not renting to the homeless. Better yet, why don’t they write a book of these stories and sell the book and give the proceeds to the homeless .

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