In response to Mr. Mark Segreti’s column entitled “Homeless don’t find sanctuary at most churches” published in the May 18 issue of The Garden Island I feel compelled to thank Mr. Segtreti for keeping the spotlight focused on an islandwide chronic issue: homelessness. Homelessness cannot be solved by any single organization or agency. It truly takes us all working together, faith-based organizations, private foundations and governmental agencies to make significant progress toward our common goal; affordable housing, nutritional security and medical care for all our citizens.
I found myself questioning the role of the modern church in providing “sanctuary,” a theme of Mr. Segreti’s article. By sanctuary, do we mean a guaranteed clean and free bed to sleep in each night? Do we mean the freedom to sleep on private property without permission? I think not. Most, if not all, churches on Kauai lack the resources to individually provide housing for the homeless. Rather they are using their resources to provide other forms of assistance.
Now I would like to focus on how the faith-based community on Kauai, people of all faiths, is working daily to support our island’s homeless. Let’s tour the island from west to east and then north focusing on a few of the faith-based homeless support groups we will find along the way.
The Episcopal Church on West Kauai is represented by two congregations, St. John’s in Eleele and St. Paul’s in Kekaha. Each church supports multiple outreach programs. To name a few: the soup kitchen ministry at St. Paul’s is currently held on the last Saturday of each month, and has been renamed “The Westside Community BBQ,” better expressing the open and welcoming atmosphere created by St. Paul’s outreach.
In addition, The Episcopal Church on West Kauai provides volunteer support to the Salvation Army Kokua Kitchen once a month and has just established a new ministry in collaboration with Eleele Baptist Church’s existing monthly food pantry on the second Saturday of each month, to provide additional storage space as well as volunteer labor from their members.
The Episcopal churches on West Kauai also collaborate in maintaining the Kekaha Community Garden, located on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church in Kekaha. The garden offers land, training, community, outreach and hope.
Continuing our tour to the east we come to Lihue and St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church. St. Michael’s food outreach program, Loaves and Fishes, is the largest food pantry in Lihue. The pantry distributes groceries to about 100 people each Wednesday morning. Loaves and Fishes is staffed by volunteers and supported with donations of food and cash from parishioners as well as other churches and organizations.
On the Eastside we find two very complimentary ministries, Kapaa Missionary Church’s food and clothing assistance for the homeless and All Saint’s Episcopal Church and Preschool’s Laundry Love. Under the Banner of “LOVE ONE ANOTHER” Kapaa Missionary provides the following services to those in need:
w SOUP KITCHEN: A hot meal is served on the second and fourth Saturday of the month from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
w FOOD PANTRY: Free food bags provided every Saturday from 5 to 6 p.m. at the church. Volunteers shop for the food, pack the food bags and cheerfully pass them out to anyone who needs food.
w FREE CLOTHING: We give away clothing every second and fourth Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at the church. All clothes are donated and volunteers sort, fold and organize items for giveaway.
All Saints’ offers the LAUNDRY LOVE ministry the first and third Wednesdays of each month from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Kapaa Laundromat in the Kapaa Shopping Center. Laundry Love helps to wash the clothes and bedding of individuals and/or families in need. From the infant to the aged, and across a broad spectrum of ethnicity, culture and personal story, Laundry Love seeks to nurture the well being of each person through intentional networking and friendship. All Saints’ is also known for its weekly Aloha Hour, after Sunday’s 9:30 a.m. service. All are welcome to partake of the food offered by the parishioners.
Also on the eastside is The Saint Catherine Food Pantry in Kapaa. They opened their doors in February 2010. Their volunteers feed anyone who comes to St. Catherine looking for food and attests to meeting the USDA financial guidelines. The pantry also delivers food to three to five beaches in Kapaa and people without transportation.
The Food Pantry provides food to an average 350 people a week, of which 30-35 percent are children and 15-20 percent are served at the Kapaa beaches or outreach (delivery). There are about 40 volunteers who make the food pantry program possible. Collectively, they put in 60-70 hours per week.
Christ Memorial Church in Kilauea is known for its food pantry, thrift shop and outstanding pancakes. As reported in The Garden Island, Aug. 31, 2015, “Since its inception in 2014, the CMEC Food Pantry has been steadily growing, from serving 24 families in the first week of operation to serving 60 to 80 families per week today. Over the last 12 months, it has served more than 3,000 households, estimated at 9,486 people.
During the first year, more than 1,000 volunteer hours were tabulated, moving 20,000 pounds of purchased food, and more than 8,000 pounds of donated produce. ‘The pantry welcomes everyone, and we feel like we have become another ohana,’ said Cathy Butler, food pantry coordinator.
The North Shore is home to The Church of the Pacific, a United Church of Christ. This church offers several ministries in support of the homeless. For example, the North Shore Food Pantry feeds those in need and has grown from a small, once a month endeavor to a weekly distribution program which now feeds over 200 people. This program has been recognized throughout the county and state for a number of years as one of the best food pantry programs of it kind.
The Church of the Pacific also supports a community garden. Started in 2008 as a small plot of land behind the rectory, it has grown to a third of an acre. This garden has been a tremendous source of fresh food for feeding the needy.
I have not been able to highlight all the work that is being done, and the work that needs to be done if we hope to adequately address our common goal; affordable housing, nutritional security and medical care for all our citizens.
In addition to the organizations mentioned above, there are a number of governmental and private, nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing assistance to those in need. I encourage you to search the Web for more information.
William Caldwell lives in Kapaa.