Sunday, September 18, 2011

Homeless in Honolulu

This past Wednesday I was part of a panel that discussed the topic of homelessness in Honolulu. The event took place at St. Andrews Episcopal Cathedral and included Connie Mitchell from the Institute of Mental Health Homeless Shelter; Marc Alexander, the State's Homeless Coordinator, and Dorothy Hine from the Waikiki Health Center.

The event provided a wonderful opportunity to address the issues of homeless and some of the discusion looked at the role that the church should play with the homeless. The State of Hawaii has advocated that faith based groups ceased feeding the homeless in parks and instead center their volunteer efforts at shelters such as IHS and the Lighthouse. I commented that St. Aidan's ministry is somewhat different in that we have a service first,  and that the feeding takes place on the grounds of St. Andrews. In addition, it was noted that a growing number of the folks who come to the 2pm feeding (typically around 200) can be described as the "hidden" homeless, that is, those who are on the verge of becoming homeless, and who typically live paycheck to paycheck. I also noted that with now one in six Americans in poverty, and one in five having some kind of mental illness, the church could/should play a significant role in helping people to find their way to healing and wholeness. The Celtic Church historically has always tried to welcome "the stranger" and those who are "searching". Many of us feel that we are providing a meaningful service to a disenfranchised group of people who for the most part are rejected by the cultural mainstream. Our Celtic tradition also reminds us that we find God in the face of the stranger, which is one of the reasons we believe in a ministry of hospitality.

There were approximately 70-75 people in attendance including some homeless people. In conclusion, I felt it was a wonderful forum, a wonderful start to a very difficult and complex social issue. I hope that we could have continued discussions on this topic.

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