'Homeless Savior' Raises Eyebrows

In Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, where everyday seems picture perfect, venturing down the coastline you might come upon a beach that won't be found on any postcard.

It is the dark side of paradise, an obscure place where the homeless pitch tents and go about their lives out of sight from the lush playground that is Honolulu.

Hidden among this tropical tragedy are families and single mothers like Dorie-Ann Kahale. Until recently, Kahale and her daughters lived in relative obscurity, in a tent on the beach.

Kahale's life changed, however, when a flamboyant Japanese billionaire named Genshiro Kawamoto moved into town along with what seemed like a crazy idea. Kawamoto announced that he would pick a half dozen poor and homeless Hawaiian families and give each of them one of his multimillion-dollar Honolulu homes rent-free for at least ten years.

To win, families were asked to write letters. Kahale's was among the thousands that poured in. She typed her letter while at work at the local phone company.

…I am a mother of 6 children ranging from 21 to 6 years old. I have 1 son and 5 daughters and it brings deep tears in my eyes to see such opportunity like this.

…I am a hard working mother currently living in Kalaeloa Homeless Shelter.

…I do travel approximately 83 miles a day to and from work for the last 7 months. It's the good Lord that allows me to have enough gas to go and come to work.

…I am in the shelter because I was unable to pay the rent of $1200 a month from $800 when I first moved in.

Savior or Suspect?

Kawamoto is well known in Hawaii, but not for being generous. In actuality, the would be "homeless savior" is blamed by many for helping create the housing problem by driving up property values in the 1990s.

"What he used to do," said Mike Buck, a local radio host, "and this is really substantiated by lots and lots of people, is he'd drive around the areas, particularly the Hawaii Kai in the beginning, and he'd see a house that was either run-down or maybe not in real good condition and he just had this person go up to the door and say, 'Mr. Kawamoto thought he'd like to buy your house.' He paid cash for these houses and people were ecstatic, they made this big home run and off they went. And he bought hundreds of them."

Kawamoto became infamous for raising rent unexpectedly on his many properties and then evicting the tenants with little notice. But all of this was of little concern to Kahale as she mailed away the most important letter of her life.

True to his word, and much to the astonishment of the lucky few and his many doubters, one by one, Kawamoto handed over the keys to the first three houses.

Kahale's new $3 million home is free of charge except utilities. "I have to pinch myself every day to realize [this is] my home and the value of it," she said. "Chandeliers. Armoire. A beautiful TV set, surround sound. It's unbelievable."

And it isn't just any nice home. Each one that was given away is located in the exclusive oceanfront neighborhood of Kahala, known as the Beverly Hills of Hawaii.

From Shabby Tents to Oceanfront Mansions

To fully appreciate how mind boggling this is for Kahale, you need to understand where she's been. Kahale and her oldest daughter, Zandi, took "Nighline" back to the beach where they lived.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...