The Rev. Claude DuTeil
Episcopal priestBy Mary Adamski
reached out to
THE Rev. Claude DuTeil started dispensing peanut butter sandwiches from a Chinatown storefront at a time when no social agency had faced the fact that a growing number of homeless people needed aid.
As the Episcopal priest would often tell it, his creation of the Institute for Human Services was an act of redemption for him. He chose the name to fit the initials IHS, short for Greek letters that are used to designate Christ. "Jesus was one of the street people," he said in an interview.
A priest for 30 years, his life was in a dive in 1978 because of alcoholism.
"He was alcoholic but he didn't know he was manic depressive," said Mickey Reich, outreach director at Our Lady of Peace Cathedral. "A new bishop gave him an ultimatum about his drinking. It forced him to get into treatment." When he discovered his mental condition and began taking medication, "it was just an eye opener for him. He wanted to repay for the misery he had caused."
DuTeil opened the "peanut butter ministry" in 1978. His support for street people went beyond food, said Reich. "I would get them cleaned up and he would go to court with them."
She recalled an incident at IHS where she was in a threatening confrontation with a homeless man. After DuTeil ejected the man, she told him how she felt.
"He told me, 'Thank you for the sympathy and disappointment, but the main problem is unsolvable.' He said the man has a mental problem and refuses to take the medication and that is something we can't rehabilitate. He told me, 'I can understand, I have been through that myself.' He certainly taught me," Reich said.
DuTeil and his wife retired in 1993 to Texas, where he died in 1997.
The Institute for Human Services is still the main help for Honolulu's homeless people.