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Under deal with the city, religious mission to stop feeding homeless in Chinatown

The River of Life Mission has reached an agreement with the city to move its daily homeless meal operations from Chinatown to multiple hubs throughout Oahu.
Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 4:07 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 10, 2022 at 10:21 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The River of Life Mission has reached an agreement with the city to move its daily homeless meal operations from Chinatown to multiple hubs throughout Oahu.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi and the River of Life made the announcement Thursday.

The two negotiated the move for months after the mayor promised Chinatown businesses he would do more about the concentration of homeless people in the area.

Five days a week for 35 years, the religious mission has fed the homeless and poor in Chinatown. But after 12 million meals, criticism grew because of the crowds it attracted, both to food and services.

“The River of Life uses food to build relationships, gain trust, and then find out what people’s needs are,” said Rann Watumull, the River of Life board president.

But they’ve received a lot of pressure to get out.

“We know that the unintended consequence is we’ve had a lot of homeless people congregating down there because of having access to food,” said Blangiardi.

“And despite their efforts of the ministry, nonetheless, when these people are out on the street, it’s been a real cause of real concern. It has created safety issues. It has not been good.”

Under a deal made with the city, a religious mission will no longer be feeding homeless in Chinatown.

Watumull said they will keep their chocolate shop and some services for now, but the long lines of homeless people waiting outside will come to an end soon.

Instead, River of life will operate smaller hubs throughout Oahu.

“The idea is, instead of having one large location where you feed maybe 200 people, you get out in the communities and you have maybe 30 people,” Watumull said.

“That way, you can spend more time with them. It’s a less drain on the communities.”

River of Life said it is still identifying where their new locations would be.

The city said it is not just relocating the problem because they have the resources to support the homeless in other areas.

“We’re trying to do is set up places for them to go,” said Watumull. “We’re hiring healthcare workers. We’re providing social services that have not been on the books before.”

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