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Honolulu shelter will allow mother to nurse openly

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:41 p.m. HST, Jul 01, 2014

HONOLULU >> A Honolulu homeless shelter won't take action against a mother who is refusing to cover up while breastfeeding or use a private room, its executive director said Tuesday.

Karen Penley, 27, wants to nurse her 9-month-old son Nakana out in the open at the Institute for Human Services shelter, where she's been living for about three weeks. Nakana, who is exclusively breast-fed, doesn't tolerate being under a nursing cover, and the room the shelter provides is cramped and hot, Penley said.

Staff members asked her to cover up or nurse in private because of complaints from residents that she was too exposed, said executive director Connie Mitchell, who disputes that the room offered is hot and small.

"In Hawaii, there's an expectation that you are discreet," Mitchell said. But she couldn't describe the level of exposure because she hasn't seen Penley nursing.

Penley said she nurses by pulling her shirt up or pulling her straps down, depending on what she's wearing.

"I never take my shirt off," she said. "I've never had the nipple exposed or anything like that."

After a staff member told her to cover up while she was nursing Nakana on steps outside the shelter, Penley decided to contact Hawaii News Now because she felt the shelter was violating her right to breastfeed.

"I've always known the law about breastfeeding, and it's against the law to refuse services to you if you're breastfeeding," she said.

Hawaii is among the 46 states, along with the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, that have laws allowing breastfeeding in any public or private location, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.

Hawaii's law says it's discriminatory "to deny, or attempt to deny, the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodation of a place of public accommodations to a woman because she is breastfeeding a child."

There are no laws requiring nursing mothers to cover up, said Debrah Trankel, a nurse and lactation consultant at The Queen's Medical Center.

Mitchell said the private, nonprofit shelter and social services agency isn't violating the law because the organization is not stopping anyone from breastfeeding.

"We have nothing against breastfeeding," she said. "It's not about rights. It's about responsibility to help the whole community feel they are in a safe place and comfortable place."

Penley said that she just wants to nurse in way that's comfortable for her child. "For me, it's all about his needs. Not me, not the people around me," she said. "Their comfort is not my problem."

Refusing to hide her nursing is also about helping other mothers in shelters feel comfortable about breastfeeding, she said.

"Breastfeeding is more successful when a mother can comfortably nurse her baby in a safe environment," La Leche League for Northern California and Hawaii, an international organization that provides breastfeeding support, said in a statement responding to Penley's situation. "We encourage continuing conversations resulting in a mother feeling supported with compassion and respect in whatever unique situation she finds herself."

Penley won't be asked to leave for not abiding by the shelter's request, Mitchell said.

"If she wants to breastfeed, she can breastfeed," she said. "We're not kicking her out."

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Masami wrote:
""For me, it's all about his needs. Not me, not the people around me," she said. "Their comfort is not my problem." And THAT.......is what's wrong with this world.
on July 1,2014 | 02:26PM
8082062424 wrote:
i hope she understands that works both ways. others will feel the same way about her feeling and comfort
on July 1,2014 | 02:44PM
soundofreason wrote:
I'd just grab my cheek and make a sloshing sound. We'll see who gets more uncomfortable.
on July 1,2014 | 06:38PM
maluao wrote:
Where did I read that she's a mother of 4? There's no reason a healthy, attractive, reasonably articulate woman of 27 should be in these straits, already with 4 children born charity wards. Her callousness against those around her is probably an echo of the callousness of all those men in her life who left her hapai and dry. Maybe she does need to be "controlled," as she's apparently not great at controlling herself. Very sad, but IHS needs to grab control of its reins.
on July 1,2014 | 11:49PM
kiragirl wrote:
Yep. An attitude problem.
on July 1,2014 | 07:30PM
RichardCory wrote:
What's wrong with the world is a woman feeding her baby? No, what's wrong with U.S. is its irrational and antiquated puritanical revulsion at the sight of a woman's breast. Time to grow up and deal with it.
on July 1,2014 | 11:18PM
LanaAloha wrote:
I agree. Get over it people! The baby wants some milk - let your eyes go elsewhere if it bothers you.
on July 2,2014 | 12:28AM
PMINZ wrote:
Then just as equal if she don't like anyone staring at her bared bussom she should go elseware if it "bothers" her. Dats "equality"
on July 2,2014 | 03:37AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Where is the shelter and when is she feeding? I just want to know for scientific purposes.
on July 1,2014 | 02:29PM
den wrote:
on July 1,2014 | 02:50PM
Bully wrote:
The homeless shelter managers dont like it because it probably turns on the homeless sickos.
on July 1,2014 | 02:31PM
8082062424 wrote:
there a lot of mentally ill folks there too . and she doing it out side lol
on July 1,2014 | 02:45PM
alapue wrote:
The shelter managers are trying to protect her because, there are a lot of sickos
on July 1,2014 | 03:50PM
clarab wrote:
Can we please get past the puritanical attitudes that view a nursing woman as an obscenity? What discomfort should an image of a nursing mother and child convey?
on July 1,2014 | 03:19PM
dancingcat wrote:
clarab; oh please, would you have her nurse in a men's prison so her baby can feel comfortable...nursing in itself is not obscene, however, you/society can't control our minds!
on July 1,2014 | 04:52PM
blkdrgn wrote:
I'm on my way!
on July 1,2014 | 03:22PM
alapue wrote:
The shelter should have kicked her out. This woman does not appreciate the help, she is being provided. She cares only for herself. That type of attitude does not work in a communal situation.
on July 1,2014 | 03:47PM
lifeisgood wrote:
I support her right to feed her baby. So what if a few people are uncomfortable? Get over it! Which is more important--discomfort (which is easily fixed by turning of the head) or feeding a baby??
on July 1,2014 | 04:06PM
tigerwarrior wrote:
This is not about whether or not Penley appreciates the help she is receiving. Hawaii laws allow women to breast feed in ANY PUBLIC or PRIVATE location. The article doesn't specify whether or not this homeless shelter is publicly or privately run. However, if this shelter is receiving federal funding, it should not discriminate against those who aren't breaking any laws.
on July 1,2014 | 07:39PM
ISCREAM wrote:
She is receiving "federal funding"...she is being supported by taxpayers who may be uncomfortable. This whole notion that the government has money of its own is uncomfortable.
on July 1,2014 | 08:37PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
That's exactly what she was hoping they would do. Nothing like a homeless mother suing the homeless shelter for violating her rights. Buy her a ticket and send her back to the mainland where she came from, I can guarantee she's not from around here.
on July 1,2014 | 10:50PM
808zone wrote:
Well said Masami!
on July 1,2014 | 04:04PM
MakaniKai wrote:
"Their comfort is not my problem" 'Nuff said..........
on July 1,2014 | 04:07PM
ISCREAM wrote:
Well, when some whack job makes her uncomfortable it is not our problem...
on July 1,2014 | 08:37PM
lifeisgood wrote:
I support her right to feed her baby. So what if a few people are uncomfortable? Get over it! Which is more important--discomfort (which is easily fixed by turning of the head) or feeding a baby??
on July 1,2014 | 04:08PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
It's not the breastfeeding, it's her attitude about being asked to do it in private and her decision to call a news crew. Next she'll find a lawyer and file a bogus law suit against the taxpayers that fund that shelter. Ungrateful woman should go back to the mainland.
on July 1,2014 | 10:55PM
LanaAloha wrote:
Sorry being asked to nurse in a hot, stuffy room is not cool. Babies nurse 10'to 12 times a day.
on July 2,2014 | 12:30AM
maluao wrote:
You cannot shut out noises or smells by turning the head...and what if numerous other people started breast feeding (or performing other obscene bodily functions) in every corner of the room? This is largely about precedent. She is a GUEST in someone else's home (taxpayers and IHS admins), and seems to have forgotten her place. This damn entitlement culture is something else. You don't walk into someone's Thanksgiving dinner, and start breastfeeding over the turkey...
on July 1,2014 | 11:19PM
lifeisgood wrote:
I support her right to feed her baby. So what if a few people are uncomfortable? Get over it! Which is more important--discomfort (which is easily fixed by turning of the head) or feeding a baby??
on July 1,2014 | 04:11PM
iwanaknow wrote:
Shameless?..............no, it is what it is. Viva la difference!
on July 1,2014 | 05:00PM
shayarai wrote:
Any woman who has nursed a child will tell you it is not at all hard to do so modestly and there is no reason why a child cannot be fed discreetly. Unfortunately, there are sickos out there who have perverted ideas about the natural act of breastfeeding. By refusing to discreetly nurse, this mother is needlessly endangering herself and her child. It's her right to believe that the feelings and comfort of others are not her problem. But, the potential danger to her and her child certainly is her problem. One has to wonder why she doesn't seem to understand that?
on July 1,2014 | 05:20PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Don't you see, she wants them to violate the law regarding breastfeeding so she can file suit against them. Like most in her situation, she's looking for a free ride.
on July 1,2014 | 10:59PM
Alex57 wrote:
the woman is an exhibitionist!
on July 1,2014 | 05:22PM
soundofreason wrote:
Exactly what I was thinking. Probably responsible for her "fine" choices of mates that got her where she is today. She apparently has demonstrated great judgment that got her to where she is today.
on July 1,2014 | 06:41PM
ISCREAM wrote:
The woman wants to be the center of attention...
on July 1,2014 | 08:38PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
More boobage is always OK.
on July 1,2014 | 05:37PM
8084979265 wrote:
Let me get this straight, the same people who pee in the street and sh*t in the bushes, in between hits of crack, are complaining because a young mother breastfeeds her infant? Give me a break.
on July 1,2014 | 06:24PM
OPGLAW wrote:
So why is this young, easy-on-the-eyes mother of two in a homeless shelter? That's what I wanna know
on July 1,2014 | 06:47PM
2NDC wrote:
I got a spare bedroom she can stay in and when baby's not breastfeeding, maybe there's enough for me to indulge as well? :-D
on July 1,2014 | 08:16PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
You should go ask her, she's at IHS.
on July 1,2014 | 11:01PM
Masami wrote:
Reading through the comments it appears the majority of people just want her to abide by the rules of the shelter. "...........the private, nonprofit shelter and social services agency isn't violating the law because the organization is not stopping anyone from breastfeeding." But here you have a homeless mother of two children who's been living in this shelter for 3 weeks now and she doesn't want to abide by their rules. Seems that she's a guest and if I'm a guest in someone's house, I listen to their rules. They're not stopping her from breastfeeding. Lady, you're already in for major life problems and you should appreciate that the shelter didn't kick your ungrateful posterior out onto Nimitz highway. Bet you don't have a job also and with that attitude you'll have a hard time holding on to one. Some people............."NO CAN".
on July 1,2014 | 06:49PM
tigerwarrior wrote:
And what kind of "attitude" does Penley possess to make her have a hard time holding on to a job? Hawai'i's laws allow women to breastfeed in ANY PUBLIC or PRIVATE location. And here's a hypothetical for you: Say Penley was gainfully employed and her boss/supervisor decided to fire her simply because she breast fed her child at place of employment. The boss's/supervisor's job would be on the line--NOT Penley's according to Hawaii Revised Statutes 378-2 which "provides that it is unlawful discriminatory practice for any employer or labor organization to refuse hire or employ... a lactating employee because an employee breast feeds or expresses milk at the workplace." Not my 2 cents--it's the law.
on July 1,2014 | 07:26PM
Masami wrote:
I'm not gonna get into a peeing match with you. They're allowing her to breastfeed..that's a fact. They're just trying to be respectful of the other guests at the shelter. What's so hard about being respectful of others?
on July 1,2014 | 08:10PM
2NDC wrote:
Problem is breastfeeding is protected by HAWAII LAW. Connie Mitchell and staff have a tendency to mistreat the people in their shelters and often violate various state statutes. The media has kept most of it under wraps for whatever reason. It's only a matter of time before the homeless wise up and/or they team up and sue Connie Mitchell and staff. At least two state agencies are currently investigating allegations against the shelter.
on July 1,2014 | 08:19PM
slacker47 wrote:
Let her do it at a Hooters restaurant
on July 1,2014 | 06:50PM
2NDC wrote:
Glad the shelter decided to allow the woman to breastfeed. There are laws that are in place that govern that. As for the shelter in general, management is very poor in that the violate a lot of people's rights. It will only be a matter of time before one or more of the homeless hire an attorney and sue the heck out of that shelter. Management there is a frigg'n joke.
on July 1,2014 | 07:33PM
Masami wrote:
They never stopped her from breastfeeding. Because she's not the only one there they asked her to do so in private yet she doesn't want to and makes lame excuses for not doing so. That's what all this fuss is about.
on July 1,2014 | 08:18PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
You sound like you have "first hand" experience with that shelter. Did Connie kick you out?
on July 1,2014 | 11:04PM
Bdpapa wrote:
I don't get it. You come to a shelter and make your own rules. Its not supposed to work that way. I respect her for breastfeeding the child but she needs to be respectful of her environment. A lot of people, including myself, are unconfortable with this. To me, this is a personal bonding moment between mother and child. A little compassion for her environment would be much more appropriate.
on July 1,2014 | 07:46PM
beachluvr wrote:
Bdpapa, I totally agree with you. Nothing wrong with breastfeeding. But the woman needs to respect everyone else around her. If not, get your happy butt to Woodstock.
on July 1,2014 | 08:38PM
Bothrops wrote:
ART II.] BREASTFEEDING IN PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS [§489-21] Discriminatory practices; breastfeeding. It is a discriminatory practice to deny, or attempt to deny, the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodations to a woman because she is breastfeeding a child. [L 2000, c 227, pt of §2]
on July 1,2014 | 08:54PM
Bdpapa wrote:
Yeh yeh yeh! My wife, a lactation consultant told me the same thing. Its still unnecessary and and an infringement on others. Have some respect for others. These guys have little or no sexual opportunities. Give them a break!
on July 1,2014 | 09:05PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Have you nothing better to do than look up the laws on breastfeeding in public? Get a life Bothrops.
on July 1,2014 | 11:05PM
Jerry_D wrote:
I have no problem with mothers deciding to breastfeed their babies in public. Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing, the best milk for a baby, and creates a strong bonding experience. But if you're going to expose your breasts in public like that, don't get offended when you catch guys sneaking a peak to check out those heavy, milk-laden boobs. Don't call us "perverted" for succumbing to our natural, God-given urge to lust over a nude female body. Don't like it? Then don't breastfeed in public....simple as that. Can't have your cake and eat it too.
on July 1,2014 | 09:21PM
maluao wrote:
This is repulsive, a way to deprive modest-minded homeless of any bearable options. In the same breath, we force them to tolerate this, and implore them to get off the streets and take proactive steps. IHS is supposed to be a first-step towards disciplined recovery, and how is that facilitated by slobs exposing themselves and their bodily fluids? Penley should act like the guest she is.
on July 1,2014 | 11:24PM
PMINZ wrote:
Well the feeding Mom, better be willing to endure the surrounding males Oggleing the bared bussom. That is gonna happen. Like it or not!
on July 2,2014 | 03:30AM
Letsplay2 wrote:
Breast feeding is a bond between a mother and child. If someone is offended look the other way.. Just because you are not getting any "breast milk" doesn't mean a baby shouldn't. Everyone is always trying to poke their nose in everyone else's business.. All the narrow minded people that think everyone needs to do what they want need to GROW UP...
on July 2,2014 | 08:29AM
richierich wrote:
If it bothers you go elsewhere. If it turns you on, pull up a chair. Her comfort is not your problem.
on July 2,2014 | 12:45PM
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