Hawaii faith leaders get schooled on how to help homeless responsibly

Hawaii faith leaders get schooled on how to help homeless responsibly
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's a core value of all religions: Help those who are less fortunate.

But Hawaii faith leaders say they're not always sure how to help a growing number of homeless, who are increasingly sleeping on their properties and seeking their assistance.

Several churches say they're getting more requests from homeless seeking food, a place to sleep and money.

"Overall most of them were very gracious and kind but there were some that made it bad for all," said Rev. David Rivers, of Central Union Church.

Rivers said homeless started coming onto church property about a year ago, after being forced out of Waikiki. A few ended up near the preschool; others set up camp near buildings.

It was a situation Rivers wasn't sure how to handle.

And he's far from alone. On Monday, dozens of leaders representing multiple faiths met with homeless service providers for a lesson on how to give responsibly.

The Institute for Human Services provided workshops on a range of topics, including helping the mentally ill and giving in a way that has a long-term effect. Attendees also learned how other congregations have stepped up to help.

Family Promise, which relies on a network of churches hosting families for a week at a time, was held up as an example of how congregations of all sizes can assist the homeless. St. Elizabeth's Episcopal in Kalihi was also discussed; the church has invited families to live in a converted shipping container in the church's parking lot.

"Our real push is for the intact families who are out there, who frankly don't need services," said Rev. David Gierlach "They just need a roof over their head. And there's lots of them."

Connie Mitchell, executive director of IHS, says nonprofits can get all the help they can get. And they're hoping to see more churches taking in families who just need a little time to get back on their feet.

"We really want our churches to consider that, if they have property," said

Talks on such a project have already begun at Central Union.

"I think that we have the space," Rivers said. "The next part is the conversation that would have to be had with the congregation about why we are doing this."

Meanwhile, churches are also partnering with nonprofits like IHS in an effort to get the people they come in contact with into permanent housing.

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