After disabling health challenges, former career paralegal finds “lifeline” to stability

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Ewa Beach, HI, December 2019 – “The opening here at Villages of Moaʻe Kū was a lifeline,” says Patricia, 51, a former career paralegal with the federal government, who since 2001 has been disabled by severe chronic illness. She became homeless in 2017, couch surfing with friends for over a year, until the summer of 2018, when she found a home at this EAH Housing community in Ewa Beach, Hawaiʻi.

A University of Massachusetts graduate with a degree in political science and economics, Patricia began her career working for the Social Security Administration, later transferring to the United States Attorney’s office. While working full time she also completed a master’s degree. But health problems began interfering with her life.

In 2001, Patricia was diagnosed with chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) and later, with fibromyalgia. She continued working, but went through several surgeries, including sinus, tonsillectomy and several hernia repairs. In 2004, her declining health forced her to stop working.

“I basically hit a wall,” says Patricia.

In spite of her health challenges and inability to work, and thanks to Section 8 rent assistance, Patricia was able to stay in her apartment for several more years. In 2016, after her older brother and his wife invited her to share a home with them, she gave up the apartment. Unfortunately, that arrangement didn’t work out and she was left scrambling for a home.

Over the next year, while living with friends, Patricia submitted 70 applications to low-income affordable housing providers in California, Oregon and Hawaiʻi. In 2018, the Villages of Moaʻe Kū offered her a place.

Patricia is grateful her research skills, motivation and self-discipline helped her find an apartment. She’s also grateful for her good fortune. “Getting the EAH apartment was like winning the lottery,” she says. “I’m still pinching myself that I am here.” She shares the apartment with Izy, her emotional support Beagle.

Patricia knows the need for affordable housing is huge and that people can’t rely on luck to find a place.

“I think there’s a lot of people who don’t know affordable low-income housing exists, who don’t know where to go to find it,” says Patricia. “I know there are other people in similar circumstances who are being forced out because of rent increases. They have some income, but not enough.”

Patricia worries about elderly and disabled people on fixed incomes squeezed by rising rents and gets frustrated when cities block construction of housing for people with low incomes.

“The city where I was living was proposing to build some affordable housing next to their mall and people there were saying, ‘No, we don’t want them in here,’” says Patricia. “I say, they aren’t ‘they,’ they are your neighbors. They already live and work here.”