No crisis has gripped Honolulu this year quite like the plight of its homeless citizens. So in this Thanksgiving week, Today section staff writer Mike Gordon offers five ways to give thanks by helping Hawaii’s homeless.
Gift card donations offer versatility
New residents to Maili Land, the 44-unit transitional housing facility run by Catholic Charities Hawaii, usually need to fill their empty homes with basic items, including cookware, towels, linens, fans and furniture.
The charity will take both new and gently used items, said Celeste Imamura, development and communications manager. Monetary donations help pay for new cleaning supplies, from laundry detergent to hygiene products.
While at Maili Land, residents learn job and parenting skills and how to prepare nutritious meals, among other lessons, Imamura said. They can stay there for up to 18 months.
One key donation helps not only the Maili Land families, but other low- and fixed-income clients served by the organization: gift cards to Longs, Foodland, Walmart, Times and similar retailers.
To find out how to donate to Maili Land, call 524-4673.
Demand is high for new underwear
At the River of Life Mission, which offers showers, clothing and 15,000 meals a month to homeless and low-income individuals, one of the most sought-after items is new underwear.
Proper hygiene, especially for someone who gets stuck in the rain, is difficult to maintain without a fresh pair of underwear, said Merrie-Susan Marchant, general manager of the mission. So the mission uses its cash donations to purchase this essential. It will have about $1,000 worth of underwear for holiday distribution. Sometimes the staff will pool its own resources and chip in, she said.
The need never ends.
“Most people don’t realize that when our noble government sweeps the streets — their language, not mine — people lose whatever clothing they have,” Marchant said. “After a sweep we have twice as many people coming in for clothing.”
For information, call River of Life Mission at 524-7656.
Gently used furniture can set up a new home
A safe, dry place to live is important — especially if the alternative is a tent by the road — but it takes furniture to make it a home. That’s where Helping Hands Hawaii gets involved, providing slightly used furniture to a network of 100 local charities that help the homeless get off the streets.
Helping Hands Hawaii maintains a warehouse of donated furniture that must continually be restocked because items are always going to needy individuals and families who are moving into a home or a transitional shelter, said Maria Vuong, warehouse supervisor. She processes about 200 applications a month. The program provides beds, sofas, chairs, tables, dressers, small appliances, dishes, pots and pans, and other household items. Much of it would be too expensive to buy new.
“It gives them a sense of dignity,” Vuong said. “They have a place to call home and something to put in it. It’s about stabilization for them. Now they know their family is getting back on its feet.”
Helping Hands Hawaii needs items in usable condition because it does not have staff to refurbish damaged goods, and will pick up the items from your home.
For information about donating, call 440-3800.
Shoes, slippers help students on their feet
The state Department of Education estimates there are nearly 2,200 homeless children attending public schools statewide, and their quest to learn comes with added challenges.
By nature they are a transient population whose members suddenly leave one school and appear somewhere else, often short on school supplies, said Cheryl Saito, a liaison in the DOE’s Homeless Concerns Office. The DOE, working with a fairly steady supply of donated backpacks, notebooks, pens, pencils and other school needs, is usually able to provide a homeless student with whatever is needed for classwork. But Saito said schools have discovered an important yet difficult need to fill: footwear. Whenever new shoes and slippers are donated, they’re very quickly handed out, Saito said. Last year someone donated several garbage bags full of slippers, and they were all gone in just days. To donate footwear or school supplies, call 305-9869; on the neighbor islands, call 866-927-7095.
Gift baskets welcome residents to new digs
For people transitioning from the streets to a new home, Welcome Home Gift Baskets from the Institute for Human Services can ease the process with an array of basic necessities: plates, knives, forks, spoons, glasses, pots and pans, bathroom cleaning supplies, laundry detergent and even basic furniture, such as a TV stand.
Sustaining that effort requires monetary donations for new supplies and a steady flow of gently used items, said Kimo Carvalho, a spokesman for the charity, which typically distributes 1,500 to 1,800 baskets a year.
Some of those items — furniture, bath towels, pillows, bedsheets — have come from Hawaii hotels in the midst of renovations. Individuals can make donations throughout the year, he said.
To contact IHS, call 447-2800.