As a young boy in postwar Korea, Duk Whan Kim grew up poor, never having enough to eat, and vowed that when he got older he would make it his life’s work to help those in need.
Now Kim, senior pastor of Cedar Church in Kalihi, is teaching farming, self-help and providing tiny homes to the homeless at a 4-acre Waianae farm.
On Thursday, state Rep. John Mizuno (D, Kalihi Valley-Kamehameha Heights) and state Rep. Cedric Gates (D, Waianae) lauded Kim and his church’s efforts in taking action to help the homeless find shelter and work. There are currently 53 living in some of the 50 tiny sheds.
Also, 17 low-income homeless including kids are living in four houses on the property built in 1934.
Kim has opened the farm to homeless from across the island willing to work on the farm, said Ilbo Park, who oversees the farm operation and is an evangelist with the church.
They began farming in April, and sweet potatoes for sprouts are already sprouting, she said. They also have planted choy sum, bok choy, green onions and more.
But it’s the people who work on the farm who are growing fast.
“I can see them transform from bad attitude to good attitude,” Park said. They are no longer always angry, and are willing to work, she said. “Now when we ask for help, they help.”
The homeless who live there are asked to devote three to four hours a day to farm, and are paid a small amount of money, and in turn reimburse the church for utility costs.
Living quarters are small, ready-made plastic sheds available at hardware stores, which are supplemented with shared portable toilets, showers and a covered outdoor kitchen and dining area.
They share breakfasts and dinners together as a group.
Kim initially had set up 33 tents. Then in 2012 someone was trying to sell a Waianae farm, so the church bought it.
Mizuno said the ultimate plan is to run a homeless town with 100 tiny homes and accommodate 150 people.
“Many look at homeless like throwaway people,” he said. “For Pastor Kim and his group, there are no throwaway people. I’m supporting Pastor Kim and his endeavor to help the homeless. He’s not been given one red cent from the government.”
Kim plans to expand the farm with chickens, ducks and goats.
The church got a food establishment permit, and plans are in the works for setting up a kimchi factory in September at the farm using the produce, which is grown under the name of Hawaii Good Samaritan Foundation Farm.
Kim also wants to establish a leadership training school to teach job skills.
Kim has one homeless couple from Pearl City caring for the farm’s eight goats.
The couple, Keone and Tevia, had gotten involved in drugs and had their children taken away from them, Mizuno said.
The husband “takes care of them as their children,” Park said. “They’re trying to bring the children back to them.”
Mizuno quoted the husband, Keone, who said, “I lost it, but when I came to Pastor Kim’s church, I found my self-worth.”
“I’m so grateful for the amazing community members like Pastor Kim, who is stepping up to meet the needs of our most vulnerable population on the Waianae Coast,” Gates said. “I’m excited to see and hear from the many families that will receive a roof over their heads and wraparound social services to help get them back on their feet.”
Mizuno said the city’s executive director of the Office on Housing and Homelessness will meet with Kim to discuss his expansion ideas to make sure the sewage infrastructure is adequate.