homepage logo

Lahaina homeless resource center a ‘godsend’

By Staff | Nov 19, 2009

LAHAINA — National Homelessness Awareness Week is recognized annually the week before Thanksgiving.

Terry Applegate is the site manager at Na Hale O Waine‘e, the homeless resource center in Lahaina.

“On the 18th (of November) we’re going to be down by the mall, the big mall, Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center, in Kahului, sign waving, letting people know, making them aware,” Applegate said.

“There’s a lot of myths and mystics about homeless people,” Applegate explained.

“They’re real people just like us,” he continued. “There are a hundred different reasons for someone to be here. Most of our clients are actually working individuals. They’ve just had some rough times, and they’re just trying to get back on their feet.

“The way the economy is right now, we’re seeing a whole different population than we used to. It’s people that have been living basically from paycheck to paycheck, or they‘ve fallen into foreclosure and that sort of thing. They just need a helping hand,” he added.

Located mauka of Honoapiilani Highway above the Lahaina Recreation Center area, Na Hale O Waine‘e was built in partnership with the State of Hawaii, County of Maui, Weinberg Foundation and other funding sources.

The mission of the resource center “is to serve the needs of the homeless and hungry on Maui by providing emergency food and housing, to voice their concerns, to empower them to take responsibility for their own lives, and to call on the community to assist in these actions.”

Under one roof, linking with over 50 human service agencies, Na Hale O Waine‘e provides not only shelter and food, but also medical and mental heath care, vocational rehabilitation, childcare, substance abuse counseling, life skills and other education classes and financial services.

“We have an emergency shelter program that is six weeks long that is basically for anybody as long as they don’t bend the rules; we’re drug- and alcohol-free,” Applegate commented.

“We also have a transitional program. That’s a longer term program that gives people up to two years where they can get the life skills they need, education and reinforcement to go out back into the community and be self-sufficient,” he said.

In addition, according to Applegate, the facility has experienced a “nice success rate” with its complete chemical dependency program.

“We really feel good about what we do, and how we’re helping people. We also have several people that work here that were clients, and they just wanted to give back,” he said.

Chandra-Mae Medley is a previous resident now employed at the center.

She’s not shy about sharing her story.

“I started out in the dorm, transitioned to a unit, moved out and now I am currently employed with them for two years. The program, it does work. There’s a lot of other employees here, staff members that were also previous clients. We’re really grateful to be here as part of the staff and to help other clients come in and be successful and go out on their own, raise their families, find jobs and be productive; it’s a big, big asset.”

Her enthusiastic self-confidence was contagious as other residents at the center echoed her sentiments.

“My name is Georgette Montross. I’m one of the clients here — in this beautiful place. I just want to tell you that this is the most wonderful that my family and I have ever encountered. The staffs are beautiful and people here… we’re not just friends… we’re all family… I am proud enough. If you want to write my name, go right ahead.”

The stories of the program’s success over hardship continued.

“My name is Charles. I just want to say, we’re not just friends here anymore — we’re all family. When I first came here, I was pushing everybody away. Now I thank them, having a beautiful place like this.”

“My name is Rose Momoa. I want everybody to know that the resource center is not what everybody talked about, because that scared me away for nine years. I wouldn’t look for any kind of help. I lived on the beach. I thank God that they gave me an opportunity, because we’re succeeding and persevering,” Momoa added.

“I was homeless, in and out of jail,” another client added. “Now I am working. I went from dishwasher all the way to manager. I got married. I have two beautiful girls. My wife works. Oh, life is great.”

“This place is a godsend — a real big godsend,” Medley concluded.

(The community link is critical to the success of the resource center, and next week’s article highlights the West Siders that support it.)