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Week to spotlight Maui homeless and hunger issues

By Staff | Nov 10, 2011

CBS News in recent weeks has explored the devastating impacts of the long-lived recession in the United States.

Studies have shown that one in five U.S. children live in poverty, and one in 15 Americans now rank among the “poorest poor.”

The figure for people living in poverty in Hawaii is now 12.1 percent, but cold numbers are for analysts. We all know Maui residents who have lost their jobs, used up their savings, lacked money to buy food and faced foreclosure.

To put a face on Maui’s needy and shed light on homeless and hunger issues, charities next week are observing National Homeless Awareness Week.

Joyce Kawakami, founder of Feed My Sheep, will be an active participant.

“For far too long, the public’s image of homelessness is that of the ‘chronic’ homeless individual who panhandles for money, is possibly a substance abuser, and who seems unmotivated to work toward self-sufficiency,” she said.

“Those of us who work in the human services sector know that this image, while accurate for some, is not the true face of homelessness.”

Events will begin on Monday, Nov. 14. Members of the Homeless Alliance will meet with Mayor Alan Arakawa, who will sign a Homeless Awareness Week Proclamation at 9 a.m. in the Mayor’s Lounge in the County Building.

On Wednesday, Nov. 16, Mauians will meet from 4 to 5 p.m. near Macy’s on Kaahumanu Avenue to wave signs that will bring awareness to homeless issues on Maui.

On Friday, Nov. 18, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Kahului Salvation Army will hold a Health Fair for the Homeless.

Also on Friday at 5 p.m., a candlelight vigil will be held (simultaneously with others across the state) at War Memorial Gym, to be followed by the fourth annual “Stomp Out Hunger” event.

The goal of “Stomp” is to raise funds and awareness for Feed My Sheep, an organization that serves Maui residents in poverty – many of whom are homeless.

FMS distributes food weekly in Wailuku, Haiku, Lahaina, Kahana and Kihei, as well as monthly in Hana. For more information, call 872-9100.

Kawakami is confident that National Homeless Awareness Week will help raise awareness of the plight of Maui’s needy.

“We know of many working families who earn minimum wage but are unable to afford to pay rent and utilities, and thus are compelled to live in their vehicles or in the backyards of family members, or who are forced to seek help in homeless shelters,” she said.

“We also know about the parents who struggle to meet their children’s needs, and who may go hungry in order that their children get fed. These are the true faces of Maui’s hidden homeless.”