I had never experienced homelessness in my life. I grew up in a middle class family. When I moved to Maui from the mainland, my husband and I both had part time jobs, that were barely enough to support ourselves. We have two sons, the first one will be 16 soon and the other one is 10. We were able to pay our rent, but we had to go eat at soup kitchens two weeks out of the month. We had to walk 2 ½ miles to get there, we didn’t own a vehicle. I had to bicycle 5 miles to get to work and 5 miles back. Prior to that, my husband would walk me to make sure it was safe. My husband, after several months, lost his part time job and was unable to obtain another job.
The family moved to Hilo, and while they were able to buy a van, they’re finances quickly became depleted and they began living in the van.
When you’re homeless, you’re on the constant edge of breaking. It was a very emotional time for me, but I learned a lot about myself. I think the really difficult part about it was how people would treat me as a homeless person…like I’m not there, not a part of regular society. That was the hardest part for me. I’m so grateful to HOPE Services, because we struggled with the idea of going into a shelter, we wanted to try and find a way to make it on our own. But our finances got so depleted, like many people we had to hunt cans to get gas money to get our children to school and back. We ended up going into the shelter and I think that was the best decision we made. Within a month, we were in housing and I know we couldn’t have done it without Kelly, who heads Kihei Pua, and her efforts to get us into a good housing situation.
Donna’s husband is a full time student and the family is now housed at Hilo Terrace Apartments. Donna is a volunteer at HOPE Services.