Churches extend helping hand to Hawaii's homeless

Churches extend helping hand to Hawaii's homeless

KALIHI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A month ago, St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church in Kalihi invited a pregnant woman and her boyfriend to move into a converted shipping container in the church's parking lot.

It's nothing fancy but better than the sidewalk Jerome Pannell and his girlfriend, Marie Kane, were used to sleeping on.

"It fits four bunk beds, a desk, and a small table," Pannell said.

St. Elizabeth's brought in the container in June, and the the couple are the second family to be housed in the converted shipping container.

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

This summer, Mayor Kirk Caldwell offered retrofitted shipping containers to churches for homeless dwellings, and was frustrated with a lack of response. City Office of Housing Executive Director Jun Yang said some churches have since contacted the city and discussions with pastors have begun.

"They have to go back to their parishioners. They have to go back to their board of supervisors or board of trustees to figure out if this is a workable model," he said. "Some churches don't even have their own space. They rent, they lease, whatever it might be."

First Assembly of God on Moanalua Road is looking for land to put up dome shelters to house homeless.

Head pastor Klayton Ko believes churches should be doing more.

"If we can get the city and state to partner with us to fast track any approvals, I think that we could get into the game sooner," he said.

Gierlach, too, hopes more churches get involved.

"Jesus shows up to us in the face of those who are homeless," he said.

Meanwhile, Parnell and Kane -- the residents of St. Elizabeth's converted shipping container -- will live on church grounds until their child is born and they can find other accommodations.

After they leave, St. Elizabeth's plans to take in another family.

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