*Gabby, a part-Hawaiian single woman, used to live on the beaches of Waianae.
After over a decade, she finally afforded a two-bedroom apartment (shared with her brother) with assistance from the City and County’s Section 8 housing voucher program.
To make sure she kept the apartment, Gabby religiously paid $85 every first of the month. The supplemental Section 8 housing voucher also arrived earlier than the due date.
One day, to Gabby’s surprise, there was a notice on her front door informing her of late fees of $2,000, which were accumulated over two years. She was confused; she always paid on time and the housing voucher was always early.
“When I saw the letter, I started to cry,” Gabby recalled. “I called the office right away but I did not get any call back. I even sent a certified letter and it came back with a ‘return to sender’ note. I was panicking.”
For the next three weeks, Gabby tried to reach the property manager’s office for an explanation. There was no response. In the meantime, she also looked for financial assistance for the $2,000 she allegedly owed. If she didn’t pay the “late fees,” she feared she would be houseless again.
Good thing Gabby contacted Legal Aid. In December 2022, Managing Attorney Russ Awakuni became her primary advocate.
Russ immediately scheduled a meeting with the property management office’s resident manager and supervisor after receiving Gabby’s pertinent documentation and paperwork.
“Russ clarified everything; I just listened to what he had to say,” said Gabby. “He had the lady on the computer and asked her how the breakdown went. He brought up the payment being encoded and who puts it in. They said they do only when they have the time because they are short-staffed and really busy in the office.”
“We learned that the accounting department did not have the Notice of HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) contract in their files, so they held the checks and did not apply the monies to Gabby’s account,” Russ said. “Once they received a copy of the Notice, the issue was resolved and she was happy and relieved.”
Due to Legal Aid’s help, Gabby did not need to pay any late fees and was able to stay in her apartment. Also, she decided to pay her monthly rent a few days earlier to avoid the same issue from happening again.
She is no longer worried about the possibility of getting evicted and going back to the beach as a houseless person.
“You know, Legal Aid is a miracle; they helped me live,” said Gabby. “I think that they’re awesome. They’re very helpful. My attorney worked really hard. I tried to make it easy for him to help me by doing the legwork and giving him all the papers that he needed.”
Gabby now feels at peace, relieved and validated. She is focused on staying healthy and providing for herself.
“I’m very happy. I would recommend Legal Aid to anybody who needs legal help.”