How a 'hidden homeless' family got help from an innovative savings program

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two years ago, Shyla Paris' life reached a breaking point. She took her son, Soloman, and left an abusive husband.

"I was just looking at my life and crying and asking God what am I going to do," said Paris.

Paris moved into an emergency domestic violence shelter and became what's called hidden homeless -- moving from one living situation to the next. "There's just no sense of peace and just to have my son keep asking me are we moving. Are we going to stay here now," said Paris.

Statistics show that 14 percent of Native Hawaiians are believed to be hidden homeless. That's three times the percentage in the general population.

The hidden homeless include those who are in overcrowded living situations or who are couch surfing.

Many of the hidden homeless struggle for years, and many eventually end up in shelters or on the streets.

But Paris got help, thanks to a local organization that offered a major financial incentive to help Native Hawaiians pay for housing and childcare.

"Shyla came to us for financial counseling and looking for resources to get back on her feet," said Lahela Williams, program coordinator at Hawaiian Community Assets.

The program that helped: An OHA-funded match savings program that helps clients like Paris secure a rental unit or pay for childcare.

"Everything just aligned. Right when I saved $1,000, they gave me a check for $2,000 toward any future rentals," said Paris.

The program also helped Paris learn the basics of budgeting.

Now, she lives in an apartment, her son goes to school and she's got a job in healthcare.

"Shyla was an amazing case because she was driven and she was motivated to help keep her son and her family unit together to provide stable housing and a positive future for him," said Williams.

Added Paris: "I'm just so thankful and happy that there's people and agencies out there that can help."

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.