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Faith-based summit links homeless outreach efforts in West Hawaii

Updated: 
September 28, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — West Hawaii’s second annual faith-based summit to end family homelessness on Wednesday was one part interconnectivity, one part grassroots homelessness solutions and one part spirituality.

The summit was a Community Alliance Partners event — the Housing and Urban Development Continua of Care branch on Hawaii Island that helps funnel federal dollars to address homelessness throughout the county.

The day featured an update from Mayor Harry Kim on efforts to curb homelessness in Kona and an award dedication in memory of Dr. Cliff Kopp, well known for his marches around the island to bring awareness to homelessness issues. But the most impactful outcome of the summit was perhaps the way in which it linked outreach efforts.

Represented were established agencies with high levels of organization like HOPE Services Hawaii, churches that offer extensive homelessness outreach programs, and niche efforts managed by one person or a few people that have yet to partner with an official entity of any sort.

“The reason we do the summit is to bring all the sectors in the community together so that we are able to learn together, brainstorm together, problem solve together and look at different solutions together,” said Beth Murph, who works with Catholic Charities and chaired this year’s summit. “There’s no one answer for homelessness.”

Breakout sessions in the afternoon offered a chance for different ministries to highlight the services they provide, potentially fostering partnerships and facilitating the sharing of ideas and strategies that might be applicable beyond where they’re currently implemented.

Denise Oguma of HOPE spoke about the “Safe Parking Ministry,” which allows families living out of their cars in Hilo a secure place to spend the night. Not only will they not be kicked out of the lot if discovered there, they are also offered the peace of mind provided by a mounted security camera monitoring the area.

Her demonstration was meant to encourage entities with space in West Hawaii to adopt similar programs and educate them on how such programs can be implemented.

“Just by saying you can come park in a safe place, that shows love and compassion to someone already hurting,” Murph said. “It brings healing and it brings care. It helps them to live and feel like they haven’t been forgotten.”

Monica Hallquist, a trained nurse who is volunteering with Youth With A Mission in Kona, set up the “First Aid Kits: More Than Skin Deep” ministry, which was born of one of her trips to HOPE’s Kona campus with Living Stones Church to provide food for the hungry.

“As people were coming through the line, I guess my nurse eyes picked up on all their wounds,” she said. “I asked if I could start doing wound care.”

Hallquist handed out kits, explained problems typical among the homeless population such as infection, and provided herself as a resource to any who might wish to partake in her medical service outreach or initiate their own.

Victoria Morse, who captains the “Family Hygiene Bath Kit” ministry, isn’t affiliated with any organization at all. Back in April, she and a group of like-minded Christian philanthropists simply started putting together baskets of basic necessities and heading out into downtown Kona once every month to hand out free supplies.

“Our main goal is to restore the confidence and dignity to those living on the streets,” Morse said. “When you become homeless, one of the first things to go is your hygiene.”

Murph said the hope is that allowing a space for outreach initiatives that focus on practical needs to coalesce and intermingle with statewide or nationwide organizations will give footing to good ideas, as well as help round out and refine homelessness services offered in West Hawaii.

As a faith-based summit, the role of spirituality was also stressed Wednesday.

Spirituality plays a role as part of the 12-step recovery process, as well as in different modes of psychological or substance abuse counseling, both prevalent needs within the homeless community.

“Faith-based communities can help people heal in a special way that is rooted to the soul,” said Heidi Teraoka, who helped Murph in the planning of the summit. “Christian communities reach out to people and teach them about the Bible and how they can just feel loved and know there is a way to fill that emptiness with Jesus Christ. Other faith-based communities have their particular way of addressing that emptiness that people are trying to fill.”

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