Helping hands: Neighbors help longtime homeless man find health and housing

  • Nancy Carr Smith helps Raynard Mossman get settled in his new home Thursday. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)

  • Raynard Mossman was one of a handful of homeless people living in Waimea last year. Earlier this month he moved into his very own apartment. (Photos by GEORGE and Landry FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)

  • (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)

WAIMEA — On a sunny morning late last week, Raynard Mossman sat in his new apartment, taking stock of the clean, tidy surroundings. His new dining table with four plastic chairs, a small bookcase, bed, TV and miscellaneous kitchenware fit well into the 510-square-foot unit.

That afternoon he waited patiently for the cable company to come and hook up his TV.

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“I like to watch old movies and documentaries,” Mossman said.

A day earlier, Nancy Carr Smith helped him move into Kamuela Senior Housing, a 32-unit affordable housing community for elderly Waimea residents. Mossman was on their waiting list for nearly three years, and his new apartment is the first he’s been able to call his own in 20 years.

The housing complex receives 50 to 100 applications each year. Not everyone qualifies for program requirements, but at least 50 people are on the waiting list currently, according to April Kolii, the assistant manager there.

Beginning a long journey

Half Native Hawaiian, one quarter Scottish and one quarter English, Mossman was one of a handful of homeless kupuna in Waimea interviewed for a two-part article that ran in West Hawaii Today in May 2017.

He lived on the street in Waimea for nearly five years, on and off, and met at least half of his new Kamuela Senior Housing neighbors before moving in. Mossman’s familiar face could often be seen outside Starbucks at Parker Ranch Center with his rolling suitcase and bags in tow.

“I would sit on one of the chairs out front but I got in trouble because the meds I was taking made me fall asleep, so they kicked me out for one year,” he said. “They see me around now and say hello.”

Mossman’s mother — Martha Spencer — grew up in Waimea and lived in the town’s landmark building, Spencer House. He was raised on Oahu and moved to the Big Island in 1997, after 10 years working in construction for DF Builder.

Through a falling out with his siblings, Mossman became homeless. He found shelter near the canoe club at Kawaihae Harbor thanks to its manager, Manny Vincent. A Department of Land and Natural Resources employee also helped him find space to camp out nearby. Five years later, a friend helped him move up to Waimea.

Help on the way

Nancy Carr Smith, Big Island Giving Tree’s co-coordinator, took Mossman under her wing when he was still living on the street.

“We first met about a year ago,” she said. “BIGT had been helping him with food. The first time I met him I was surprised because he told me he was sleeping on cement. He didn’t even have a pad,” Smith explained as her voice trembled. “So I went to ACE Hardware and got him a pad. I was hooked on Raynard that first day.”

She continued to keep a close eye on him, visiting him every day or two, bringing him food and a jacket to stay warm. Living in Waimea Park wasn’t easy.

“The cops used to come and, instead of helping us, they’d tell us to get out of there. But it was raining outside to the max, so we would go inside the bus stop for shelter,” Mossman said.

Rhonda Bell, BIGT’s other co-coordinator, met him while delivering meals to homeless around town on Thursday evenings.

“He’s a testimony for sure of why we do what we do at Big Island Giving Tree,” she said. “I saw him living behind Waimea Instant Printing back in July 2017, and after weeks of seeing him I called him uncle. He informed me that he was my husband’s distant relative, so we started a conversation.”

Heath issues

Soon after, Mossman’s health deteriorated. His swollen, bruised legs made it difficult to even walk. Mossman took numerous trips to the ER at North Hawaii Community Hospital, but his health continued to worsen.

“The meds they would give me were really potent. They killed the animal in me,” he said.

Smith learned of a land parcel Mossman had inherited from his mother and helped him sell it for income. Medicare was another lifesaver to cover his health care bills.

Smith next found a studio where Mossman could reside until his apartment became available. She also found superior health care for him through the help of Dr. Tim Duerler, who’s affiliated with Kohala Hospital.

“He was able to get Raynard admitted there,” Smith said. “My husband, Riley, and I took him right up.”

There, Mossman was hooked up to an IV to drain the excess fluid from his body.

“I lost 50 pounds in four days,” he said.

Good neighbors

Between hospital visits late last summer, Mossman stayed at Kamuela Inn where owners Melanie Holt and Tim Bostock provided a guestroom for him free of charge for 12 nights so he could recover.

“We were moved to help him because of Rhonda and Nancy diving in and sharing with us that he had a good chance of getting off the streets with our help,” Bostock said.

On a subsequent visit last fall, BIGT paid for a discounted room for him at the inn for two weeks.

“He was a welcomed guest,” the property’s innkeeper and manager Edlyn Carvalho said. “The housekeeping staff would look out for him. He was a very cordial and courteous man.”

Other basic needs

Smith also took him to Dr. Fischer to get glasses and the DMV for a driving permit and license. Recently she helped him buy a used car.

Another meaningful way Smith helped Mossman occurred in March, when she reconnected him with his daughter, Lea, after finding her on Facebook. She agreed to come for a visit.

“I hadn’t seen her in 40 years and never thought I’d see her again. She’s all grown up,” he said with a gentle smile.

During her visit, Mossman took Lea to historical places he knew she’d appreciate.

“My wife and her friends bought koa trees years ago and planted them up in the mountains on the Hamakua Coast. I took my daughter up there to see them. They’re so tall now,” Mossman said. “We also went to Spencer House.”

Lea’s two grown children — Mossman’s grandchildren — may come to meet him for the first time later this year.

Safe and sound

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Now more mobile, at age 66 Mossman gets around his apartment complex with the help of a cane and takes trips to the grocery store. He also stops at the Shell station regularly to feed birds and chickens on the grounds where he once lived.

“It’s a big adjustment for him to live in an apartment now because he’s used to being by himself, but he’ll be safe here, better for his health,” Smith said. “He was willing to be helped.”