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StarBulletin.com

Once homeless, woman works to prevent it


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POSTED: Monday, February 23, 2009

Charity begins at home. For Caroline Soaladoab and her family, it began with a house. Now that they are on their feet, they're working towards helping themselves and others like them find a home.

About three years ago, financial troubles found her family living on Keaau Beach Park. They joined the other 1,000 people estimated to be living on the beach that year. They discovered in the first six weeks how hard it was to be homeless.

Caroline and her husband, Jerry, had to figure out how to solve their problems. They struggled to find ways to cook, clean and keep their children healthy and safe.

“;Living down here's just hard, period,”; Caroline said of living on the beach. “;I'd like to have a roof over my head. I want my kids to sleep in a bedroom with a bed, not on the floor. I want my kids to be able to take a shower where everybody doesn't have to watch them.”;

The weeks turned into months, six in all. Finally, the family found a way off the beach and into a single-bedroom house through Ohana Ola O Kahumana.

Ohana Ola O Kahumana, which translates as “;Re-enlivening the Family at Kahumana,”; was established in 1988 as a program providing housing for homeless people living on the Waianae Coast. It works with the city's Homeless Service Organization.

The program purchased acres of land on Lualualei Homestead Road and renovated duplex units into transitional shelters.

Before anyone can move in, they have to meet several requirements. Families must already be able to maintain personal hygiene, feed themselves and be independent. They also have to pledge to go through parenting, budgeting, and life skills programs, plus remain clean and sober. Once they make their vow, the family can move into a transitional home for two years upon availability.

Caroline and her family lived in that one-room building for many months until they moved into a larger three-bedroom, one-bath house that they divided among the 12 of them.

Through the program, Caroline found a job with Kahikolu 'Ohana Hale O Wai'anae, a program similar to Ohana Ola. She is a case worker, helping others just like her. Her job is to place homeless people in shelters and transitional homes.

Not only did she see improvements in herself, she also saw changes in her children.

“;I had children receiving D's and F's and failing. I had children that didn't want to go to school, children that didn't want to do their homework. All of my children are now honor roll students, almost complete straight A's,”; Caroline shared.

Things continued to get better for the family. After 17 months of living in a cramped space, they moved into an enormous two-story, six bedroom, three-bath house.

They don't own the house but pay reduced, affordable rent. They appreciate the size and comfort of their new abode.

Jerry and Caroline's daughter Gabrielle was grateful for their previous residence. When she received the news about their new place she was speechless.

“;We practically cried when we saw the house,”; Gabrielle remembered.

Caroline Soaladoab overcomes her fears knowing she can get out of being homeless.

“;It had to take me and my husband to want to change. It had to take us to want a better life. It had to take us to be sick and tired of being sick and tired. So I think all of us as a family and the providers, Waianae Community Outreach and Ohana Ola, all played a part in it. But I think that our family was the one that had to take the step forward,”; she said.

Through hardship and suffering, Gabrielle feels she's gained something significant.

“;I learned that things happen for a reason,”; Gabrielle said, “;that you do good for people and you get something back in return, like my mom's ... done for so much people. They didn't think we were going to get a house this big. ... There are still good people out there.”;