As the homeless problem continues to grow on O‘ahu, the Windward Homeless Alliance (WHA), an informal group of non-profits, churches, government officials and community members, works daily to offer services like food drives, emergency shelters, laundry services and more.
“We came together from Kāne‘ohe, Kahaluʻu, and Koʻolauloa to help get support and provide services for our homeless,” said KC Connors, a WHA volunteer.
Rachell Furtado-Tom was a homeless resident for several years in Waimānalo. She received assistance from a larger homeless alliance back in 2013 but that organization eventually lost funding.
“When you and your family of 10 are living on the beach, you are willing to accept help from anyone,” she said. “So when the alliance lost funds, I felt lost without the extra assistance.”
Tom’s husband, Kaʻeo Furtado-Tom, said he was appreciative for the help his family received when living on the beach and is happy to see someone caring for the growing problem.
“I know what it is like to not have nothing,” he said. “It’s good to hear that someone is back to change other homeless families’ lives.”
WHA helps identify what services exist in the community and works with many area churches like Anchor Church, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and St. Ann’s Catholic Church.
“St. Ann’s Catholic Church has a big food bank … they work Monday through Friday, but it turns out St. Marks up the road on Kamehameha Highway has a food bank on Saturday,” Connors said. “So we’re all exchanging information about who does what.”
Anchor Church also partnered with ONEninetynineinitiative for a movement called Laundry Love, which provides clean laundry for less fortunate people.
“Anchor Church is committed to caring for the poor, vulnerable and marginalized people in Kāne‘ohe, and one of the ways we’re doing that is by simply paying to do their laundry,” its website states.
Partners in Care (PIC) is a local coalition working towards eliminating homelessness.
It will assist the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this year with the Windward portion of its annual point-in-time homeless count.
For last year’s count, Connors said she was excited to participate until she realized she was the only volunteer in attendance for Windward homeless residents.
“I was in shock,” she said. “Volunteering is something students should do.”
On Jan. 23, the annual count will kickoff. Anyone who is interested in volunteering can sign up at partnersincareoahu.org.
Students are also welcome to volunteer at events like food bank drives, upcoming “feed the homeless” events and more.
Email KC Connors at email@example.com for more information.
by Taylor James Kipapa, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter