This article represents a joint message from the diocesan Office for Social Ministry, HOPE Services Hawaii, Catholic Charities Hawaii and the Hawaii Catholic Conference, working with the Office of the Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness.
“At some point in life, we all need help,” said Jon Lam, an Oahu landlord. For many people in Hawaii, housing vouchers and subsidies serve as that needed help. “We live in a very expensive place,” Lam said. “So there are a lot of people who do need the assistance.”
Rental assistance helps people pay rent and can lift households out of homelessness and unstable housing situations, such as overcrowding and domestic violence. Programs include Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers and Housing First.
Households receive vouchers only to be turned away by many landlords because of their rental assistance. This is called source of income discrimination. There are stigmas associated with voucher-holders, including that they would likely damage rental units. There are landlords who know that this is not true.
Housing vouchers benefit many in our community, including landlords. Lam said, “It’s a win-win situation for me as well as the tenant. … I find that a lot of people who are on assistance are very appreciative of the opportunity to have a place that is safe and affordable. And for me … I’m guaranteed my rent, especially during a period of time like we’ve just gone through.”
Lam welcomes support provided to him through voucher programs. “I have a third party that I can always go back to should I have a problem with the tenant,” he said.
Along with ongoing housing programs, we have huge influxes of federal housing resources. Hawaii received 708 Emergency Housing Vouchers (EHV) from the American Rescue Plan Act. EHVs are specifically for households experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. The State and counties have begun issuing these vouchers and need more landlord partnerships immediately.
Another federally funded housing resource is Oahu Housing Now (OHN). OHN was established to quickly rehouse more than 300 homeless households, covering rent for up to one year along with services needed to ensure stability. As of late November 2021, OHN has housed more than 250 households (more than 650 people). The program, which also helps landlords with cash incentives, will rapidly house another 50 households.
Berta Maldonado, Partners In Care’s OHN Project Manager, understands the need to support landlords. “We can’t house clients who need housing without the support of landlords,” Maldonado said.
In addition, an ongoing program on Oahu is Partners In Care’s Landlord Engagement Program (LEP), which helps OHN, EHV placements, and all other Oahu housing programs. LEP partners with landlords to support them and those who need housing. As Maldonado noted, “Landlords need just as much support as our clients do.” LEP landlord assistance includes access to a damage mitigation fund and a 24/7 support hotline.
More landlords are urgently needed to step forward to be part of the solution to end housing insecurity and homelessness in Hawaii. LEP and many other programs are ready to support them.