We Need To Take Better Care Of Our Kupuna - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Carmen Hulu Lindsey

Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey is chair of the OHA Board of Trustees.

It’s one reason OHA wants to lift the restriction on residential housing on agency lands in Kakaako Makai.

We are grateful to Civil Beat for shining a light on the suffering of our kupuna. It is heartbreaking to me as a Native Hawaiian and as chair of the Board of Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to read that “Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders make up 35% of people experiencing homelessness, a figure far out of proportion with their overall population on the island.”

This is what the report by Partners in Care shows. And it should be no surprise to anyone, including our lawmakers, too many of whom are more concerned with not upsetting their wealthy donors.

The houseless kupuna probably do not vote. They have no access to the levers of power or to places where policy decisions are made that affect their ability to survive in this expensive place. 

We too have noted the alarming increase in houseless among kupuna. Many of them are likely OHA beneficiaries.

This was one of our considerations as we developed our vision for Hakuone and part of why we pursued lifting the discriminatory restriction on residential housing on our lands in Kakaako Makai. But Speaker Scott Saiki dismissed our request and vowed to treat us, as he said, like any other developer. 

But we are not Howard Hughes. We are not driven by ROI. We are driven by our mission. The return on investment we want to see above all is the creation of a path for everyone to thrive, not least our kupuna.

Kakaako Waterfront Park Kewalo Basin Harbor aerial.
OHA wants to develop its Kakaako Makai lands but has been frustrated by legislative opposition. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019)

Social media is full of anecdotal information of kupuna being forced to leave the islands and relocate to the continent because they can no longer afford to rent or buy here.

Many readers of Civil Beat can likely name someone they know — a neighbor, family member, or a friend — who was forced to do that. Every time that happens it is an indictment of us as a society.

We have failed our kupuna if they feel desperate enough that they pack up and leave for places to which they are not bound by memories and ancestral connection. It is a kind of exile — and all exiles are painful.

We envision Hakuone as a place where everyone thrives, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian. A place that provides wraparound services for keiki and kupuna, a place where we showcase Hawaiian culture for all to enjoy and learn from. A community where all can thrive.

Alas, our vision fell on deaf ears. While the Senate was hospitable, the House did not even give our bill a hearing. This was an insult to both democracy and our beneficiaries.

But OHA’s commitment to our beneficiaries does not disappear in the face of the indifference of the House. We envision ramping up our services to defend kupuna against predatory companies and others who prey on their vulnerability.

Hakuone as a place where everyone thrives, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian.

Above all, we intend to make our community aware that they don’t have to take the disrespect and disregard for their needs lying down. We have not fully utilized the power we have at our disposal through the ballot box.

The trustees will be meeting with the community on every island to listen to what they have to say about how we can better serve them and advocate for their needs. We will be helping them better understand the precious power of the right to vote and how exercising that right could improve their lives.

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About the Author

Carmen Hulu Lindsey

Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey is chair of the OHA Board of Trustees.

Latest Comments (0)

More emotional argument that is completely disconnected from the facts. OHA wants you to believe the cause of its predicament is discrimination. And that their intention is to solve the housing crisis for kupuna and low income Hawaiians. When the latter most likely is implausible given the cost of building and OHA's 11 years bumbling with a viable development plan, other than this PR campaign. Shifting the blame from OHA's board approval of the valuation in 2012 without doing its due diligence and negotiation of the state's $200M value, is simply negligent. They breached their duty to beneficiaries and where ill prepared to deal with a business decision of this magnitude. It's clear that OHA has no experience in land acquisition or development. Yet, the PR campaign leads you to believe otherwise. With the current cost to build around $750/sf, "across the street," it will be interesting to see how that pencils out for kupuna and lower income tenants. The reality for an entity with no development background to produce with they preach is slim at best, which makes one wonder who housing would really be developed for given the needed price point?

wailani1961 · 3 months ago

Ha. This makes it sound like Hakuone would be a housing program for homeless seniors or very low-income seniors at immediate risk of homelessness. It is laughable.The self-interest by OHA in this article is over the top. Using the tragedy of increasing homelessness in Hawaii to try and make an argument for a high-end development that is intended to generate revenues for OHA is really pushing the boundaries of reasonableness.And people wonder why the public and legislators are often skeptical about OHA...

justaguy · 4 months ago

Is OHA Hulu Lindsey saying that the Hokuone project will be a housing hub for our Kupunas? By what means will the Kupunas be able to afford a luxury site and building? Where do I sign up?

kealoha1938 · 4 months ago

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