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three students smiling
Student podcasters volunteering for a food drive.

Individuals and families struggling with housing are the audience for an innovative new podcast by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa social work students at the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health, with support from the Office of the Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness.

students smiling at shelter
Caballes, Reed and Teruo at the HONU.

Inspired to become agents of social change, Jonah Saribay, a recent Thompson school graduate, and three of his classmates came up with the idea of a podcast to discuss topics related to housing and houselessness in Hawaiʻi. In spring 2021, they launched Season 1 of The Permanent Address—a podcast produced by the Office of the Governor’s coordinator on homelessness, which aims to educate listeners about their housing rights in an accessible and engaging format.

“The podcast is a great way to inform the community about their rights, while giving social work students the opportunity to weigh in on some of the toughest housing issues,” said Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness.

“Homelessness is something that is close to my heart as I was homeless multiple times and I have come face-to-face with many of the obstacles that the community faces. My goal is to help the community create opportunities for the voice of many to be heard,” said current host and student Melissa Caballes. Caballes will be graduating with her bachelor’s of social work in May 2022.

Serving as agents of change

The Permanent Address podcast covers a variety of topics including rental fees and housing voucher discrimination. The final episodes of Season 2 will include conversations on how community members can support those experiencing homelessness and a detailed discussion by students on their experiences and knowledge gained during their internship at the Governor’s Office on Homelessness.

We want to be the voice for the change we want to see.
—Haunani Reed

“We want to be the voice for the change we want to see,” said Haunani Reed, a social work student, and current co-host of The Permanent Address. “Working at the HONU (temporary shelter run by Honolulu Police Department) has really opened my eyes to the severity of our homeless situation. Although there are resources available, each resource has different criteria, which can complicate accessing the services.”

Other co-hosts of the podcast include master’s of social work students Anya Schumacher and Jenivy Teruo.

“The homeless crisis in Hawaiʻi is a very complex issue…there are many contributing factors. In the podcast we get to spread awareness by talking about some of these issues and the different ways the community can help support those in need. This includes identifying bills in the legislature that will provide additional resources to the houseless community,” said Tehya Nichols, current podcast co-host and student.

According to Morishige, social workers play a vital role in advocating for individuals who are vulnerable. “These passionate and dedicated social work students are well on their way to fulfilling this role and embarking on a fully-rewarding career ahead,” said Morishige.

Access episodes of The Permanent Address on the Office of the Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness’s website and Facebook page.

—By Melissa Caballes, Haunani Reed, Jenivy Teruo, Tehya Nichols and Anya Schumacher

This effort is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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