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Job loss turns mom, son homeless


    Samalaulu Matautia puts shoes on the feet of her 3-year-old son Richard and gets a kiss. The pair currently live at the Institute for Human Services’ women’s shelter but she is looking forward to getting their own housing.

Samalaulu Matautia has encountered hard times, suffered health problems and lives in a homeless shelter, but she doesn’t let any of that get her down. She’s rewriting her story.

Matautia says her 3-year-old son, Richard, whom she calls “Prince,” pushes her to continually work toward improving their future. “My son is my motivation. It’s my responsibility to have a safe place for him. He needs a roof over his head, clothes on his back and an education,” she said.

“I try not to cry but sometimes I’m an emotional wreck. I’m always amazed by my son’s affection and what he does for me.”

Matautia lost her job as a dispatcher earlier this year after she was hospitalized due to multiple health conditions that caused her to miss work shifts. “I loved my job, but I was in and out of the hospital and they let me go,” she said.

She stayed with relatives, but secured a space at the Institute for Human Services’ women’s shelter at the end of August.

Matautia doesn’t want to depend on others and is determined to stand on her own two feet. The shelter’s Rent to Work program has helped her find full-time work as a nursing aide in a care home, and establish a savings account so she can build her foundation.

She also leans on her faith in God. “I do lots of praying. I get my strength from that. … I try my hardest to be the best mom that I can be.”

More than 800 families will be served this year by the Good Neighbor Fund. To donate to the Matautia family, use the Family Code: City-RTW-11

>> At the bank: Donations will be accepted at all First Hawaiian Bank locations through Dec. 31.
>> Online: Go to and click on the “donate now” button to make a gift via PayPal. Specify “Good Neighbor Fund.”
>> By mail: Make your check payable to “Good Neighbor Fund” and mail it to Helping Hands Hawaii, 2100 N. Nimitz Highway, Honolulu, HI 96819. Attention: Good Neighbor Fund.
>> Donations of goods: Drop off at the address above.
>> Call: 440-3800


Matautia’s health problems — including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, a chronic lung disease and chronic asthma — kept her from working consistently.

She’s getting her health under control. Matautia had bariatric surgery and has been working on reducing her weight.


Son Richard, 3; niece Tuiluaai, 28


>> For herself: blankets, towels, queen-size sheets, pillowcases

>> Tuiluaai: women’s black slip-resistant steel-toe shoes (size 10), blouses (size 3XL), a purse, a tablet, gift cards, and toiletries such as body lotions or sprays, hair products, makeup and accessories

>> Richard: LeapFrog learning tablet, books, bike, shoes (size 2), jacket (size 5 toddler), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys and gift cards

>> For the family: pots and pans, utensils, linens, dishes, coffeepot, laundry basket, curtains, shower curtain, bathroom rugs, general household items


Matautia chose to be a single parent because Richard’s father suffered from bipolar disorder and she was worried about their safety. She says her niece Tuiluaai gave up her own stable lifestyle to help her aunt.

“My niece has been my backbone. She helps when I’m in the hospital and financially,” Matautia said. “I’m just so grateful for her.”

Tuiluaai said her aunt took care of her when she was growing up “and I want to be there for her.”

“Not everyone has a perfect life,” she added. “It’s up to us to keep moving forward. … As long as we have food and a roof over our heads, we will be OK. It could be a lot worse.”

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