Building Homes, Building Lives

Ernest Heanu has overcome many challenges in his journey to building the only home he will ever own. At the age of 49, Ernest – who is hearing and speech impaired – lost his wife, Jessie, to cancer before they could realize their dream of homeownership. Their home is currently under construction in the Kanehili neighborhood in Kapolei, a tribute in progress to his wife and their dream.

With Hawaii having the seventh-highest poverty rate and the costliest housing market in the nation, homeownership is often a dream out of reach for low-income families. Many of Hawaii’s homeless are among the working poor: 52 percent of Hawaii’s homeless families include one or more adults who are working full or part time but don’t earn enough to afford permanent shelter.


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Ernest Heanu signs 'I love you' as he helps prepare lunches for volunteers who are helping him build his house in Kapolei Hawaii Habitat for Humanity Association photo

Hawaii Habitat for Humanity Association is working to make homeownership a reality for the state’s low-income families. Founded in 2001, Hawaii Habitat is the state-supported organization of Habitat for Humanity International. Our mission is to support our seven local affiliates by securing funding for building homes, promoting Habitat’s self-help model and raising awareness that decent housing is a matter of conscience and action. Homes are sold at cost and with no-interest mortgages to provide low-income families a chance to achieve homeownership.

Since the inception of the first Habitat affiliate in Hawaii in 1989, nearly 300 new homes have been built. More than 120 additional homes have been rehabilitated or repaired. Approximately 300 partner family “sweat equity” hours and 4,000 volunteer hours are contributed in the completion of each project.

Our greatest challenge is securing financial resources to grow community awareness and to provide homeownership opportunities on a larger scale. We welcome individual donors and corporate sponsors interested in supporting our work.

On Sept. 13-15, we will hold our annual Build-a-thon, a fundraising and awareness event, which is a fantastic opportunity for sponsors, donors and volunteers to get connected to Hawaii Habitat or any of our seven affiliates. To find your nearest affiliate or to donate, visit, email or call 847-7676.

Thanks to Habitat for Humanity Leeward Oahu, Ernest Heanu will have a simple, decent home in which to thrive, grow and remember his beloved Jessie.

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