Former UH sports star wants people to know: Homelessness can happen to anyone
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When former University of Hawaii point guard Jerome Freeman takes a trip down memory lane, the greatest highlights come from the early 1970s.
“I mean they talk about the football team that they had that went undefeated,” Freeman said. “That was a good time, but I think our year was better than theirs.”
Freeman describes a glorious time in University of Hawaii athletics when the “Fabulous 5″ rolled through teams on the way to national prominence and they were the talk of the town.
“Everybody say hello to us, can I get your autograph?” Freeman said. “Sometimes we go to Waikiki by the nightclub. They invite us in and check it out.”
After UH, Freeman spent some time playing overseas before moving back to the islands in 1979.
“Stayed here until ‘97 and then I got stupid,” Freeman said. “I got married for the first time and we moved to California and I was there for 10 years.”
This is where Freeman’s story takes a difficult turn.
He moved back to Hawaii from California in the mid 2000s, working various security positions around Honolulu, but income was tight.
“My rent was $1,400, my Social Security was only $1,350, but I did have a full-time job, so it didn’t matter,” Freeman said.
But in the middle of the COVID pandemic, he lost that position, fell behind on payments and eventually got evicted from his apartment last November.
Shelter at The Institute for Human Services was his only option.
“I’m the second oldest in my family and they got their own family,’ Freeman said. “They got their own problems so I never asked them for nothing. i just tried to do it on my own I guess.”
Fifty years after engineering basketball magic in Manoa, Freeman had become one of the 4,000 estimated homeless people on Oahu.
Dave Patterson, a former IHS employee, previously worked on a “Fab 5″ project with Freeman and re-connected with the UH legend to help find a housing solution.
“He’s always had that great determination and I know he’s very determined right now to get out of the situation,” Patterson said. “When I talk to him, he doesn’t blame anyone. He’s just like, this is what happened.”
After four months at IHS, Freeman eventually found an apartment Downtown.
Now, he wants to get back into the workforce and perhaps, find a job coaching.
He also wants people to know this, homelessness can happen to anyone.
For him, there are no regrets, only lessons learned.
He also says his story is not over.
“That’s the way I look at it,” Freeman said. “It’s not the way I want it to be. Not the way I planned for it to be, but I’m trying to make the most out of it.”
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