Support for homeless next step
A tour of the island on foot aims to build awareness
Utu Langi knows the pain is worth it to tell people about the plight of the homeless.
"This year, I realized that's the part of the whole thing -- the pain and all the blisters and the bad knee and everything -- it's all part of the thing," said Langi, director of H-5 and manager of the Next Step shelter in Kakaako. "It's all good."
Langi started the 140-mile, 10-day walk Wednesday from downtown to raise money for the homeless as part of this week's Homeless Awareness Week 2006. He passed through Haleiwa yesterday and continued on the seventh leg today.
Langi will end his second "Walk the Talk, Shelter the Homeless" walk around the island at the largest event Friday, including sign waving at the state Capitol, entertainment by Chinky Mahoe's halau, live music and slam poetry. There also will be a candlelight vigil honoring those who died while homeless.
"It's going very well," Langi said by cellular phone Sunday after about 20 adults and children joined him for part of the walk. "We have more community support this year than last year, more people coming over to the stops and talking story."
Homeless Awareness Week events are taking place this week on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, with each mayor signing a proclamation.
"It's a way to honor the success that we've already met and to honor those who've passed away while homeless, and to really evaluate how far we've come in the past year," said Margot Schrire, on the executive team of Partners in Care, organizer of Homeless Awareness Week 2006.
Schrire, also spokeswoman for the Institute for Human Services, said the year had been productive for homelessness issues, and people had started to take notice.
"I think what people are finding, it's no longer an 'us or them' kind of issue. The people who are on the beaches and the people who are struggling to pay their rent are people who we know," she said.
As the cost of living rises, more people need affordable housing, but a shortage of units amid heavy demand have put a squeeze on affordable housing, Schrire said.
More people find themselves on the street as affordable housing units decrease, she said.
"We have a lot of ways the people are sliding through the cracks and ending up in our homeless shelters," she said.
Nearly 4,000 people on Oahu received services from an emergency or transitional shelter from July 2004 to June 2005, according to a report released recently by the Hawaii Public Housing Authority and the Center on the Family at the University of Hawaii.
Across the state, the number increases to more than 5,500. Nearly one-third of those people are children 17 years and younger; more than half have lived in Hawaii for 10 or more years; and about a quarter of the adults reported being employed full or part time.
A report counting the numbers of homeless living on the beach in Waianae estimates 714 people, including 155 children 17 or younger, live on the makai side of Farrington Highway from Kahe Beach to Kaena Point.
Michael Ullman, lead coordinator of the Waianae count conducted at the end of August, wants counts across Oahu on a quarterly basis.
"It's all about monitoring a social problem and to see how we're doing," he said. "An emergency situation kind of dictates a very frequent counting of the problem and determining how we're doing."
The Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates a count of the unsheltered population in Hawaii every two years, Ullman said. The department will conduct its biannual count this January.
Homeless Awareness Week
The following events are planned:
"Walk the Talk, Shelter the People" second annual walk around the Island with Utu Langi to raise awareness of homelessness. The walk will end Nov. 15 with a candlelight vigil at the state Capitol. Call Samiana Langi at 808-497-0962 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.: "Unlocking the Door: The Key to Ending Homelessness," a statewide forum at the Waikiki Beach Marriott on Oahu to discuss ways of alleviating homelessness. Contact Bruce Newman at 541-332-0703 or email@example.com.
Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.: "Bridges Out of Poverty Workshop" with inspirational speaker Jodi Pfarr at Catholic Charities Hawaii Community Center, 1822 Keeaumoku St. To register, contact Laura Thielen at 808-497-4175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, 2 p.m.: Mayor Mufi Hannemann signs homeless awareness proclamation at Honolulu Hale.
Friday, 4:30-7 p.m.: Annual candlelight vigil at the state Capitol's Father Damien statue with live entertainment, stories of survival by the homeless and Hale Aloha Award ceremony for individuals' outstanding commitment to ending homelessness. Free and open to the public. For more information, contact Laura Thielen at 808-497-4175.
Sixth annual health fair for the homeless, Salvation Army, 45 W. Kamehameha Ave. Call Ed Gazmes at 808-877-5818.
Friday, 4-6:30 p.m.:
Candlelight vigil, Historic County Building, with sign waving and turkey dinner. Call Stephanie Fernandez at 808-245-4075.
Youth-led Service Learning Food Drive. Call Thelma Tayaman at 808-326-7778.
Nov. 12-18: East Hawaii school drives. Contact Heather Bowlan at 808-933-6002.
Nov. 17-19: "Truly Dually," a musical performance about homelessness at Aloha Theatre in Kona. Call Brandee Menino at 808-933-6013.
Nov. 24, 10 a.m.: Blessing for the Friendly Place with Bishop Clarence Silva, 74-5593 Pawai Place, Kailua-Kona. Call Brandee Menino at 808-933-6013.