OFFICE FOR SOCIAL MINISTRY
“I’ve been trying to think of how to have a discussion on what are the causes of all this; why is our economy such that it causes so many people to be homeless or in substandard housing, with two or three families living together?” (Bishop Larry Silva, “America” magazine, April 2017)
Bishop Larry Silva has often called on all in Hawaii to discuss and address challenging issues of the day, including homelessness and affordable housing. As part of that effort, the diocese’s Office for Social Ministry recently collaborated with the Institute for Human Services in last month’s Faith Summit on Homelessness in Honolulu.
We invited Kimo Carvalho, the IHS director of community relations, to share his reflections on that gathering which involved dozens of our parishioners discussing with many others the causes of homelessness and efforts to work more effectively in our shared mission of experiencing God in service with the most vulnerable in our midst. Here is what he wrote:
“I was reminded this past weekend of the powerful creativity and passion that people of faith generate when we bring hearts and minds together to heal pain and suffering. The Institute for Human Services (IHS) is so grateful to the Catholic diocese’s Office for Social Ministry for co-sponsoring and helping to organize the 2nd Annual Faith Summit on Homelessness. The event brought interfaith leaders, parish members from various faith orientations, and the general public together to consider how we could best expand our efforts to create impactful and lasting solutions to homelessness.
“Over the years, IHS has benefitted from the many contributions of Catholic parishes across Oahu who have volunteered at our shelters, gathered essential supplies and prepared delicious meals to help us bridge the chasm of hunger and hopelessness that homeless people experience. But the call to action at the Summit was one that challenged many of us to take our action to yet another level. The theme of partnering with other congregations and other organizations in a common geographical region was encouraged to reduce duplication of efforts and grow resources to make programs or projects possible.
“The first day provided context for considering any new ministries to be integrated into larger initiatives. It included programs that were both church and community-based, as people have moved into broader community outreach. And while feeding the hungry through food pantries and clothing them with thrift shops have been staple ministries of many parishes, all were reminded that such efforts can be enhanced with other social services that empower people toward permanent housing. As homelessness has evolved, individual churches are typically not well-equipped to triage the wide range of persons who are unsheltered. But leveraging the resources and expertise of others can create the kind of social safety nets that supported people who faced housing crises in the past.
“Saturday breakout sessions sparked new interest on the part of churches to tackle the heavy lifting and being change makers that will support and empower an array of ‘forgotten faces’ of homeless including kupuna being priced out of housing, traumatized veterans navigating re-entry into civilian life, runaway youth with few shelter options, and offenders re-entering life in the community. Ultimately, building affordable housing in its many forms must be part of the solution for thousands of Hawaii residents who are residentially challenged. Individuals and churches with property were encouraged to consider development of ‘accessory dwelling units’ (ADUs), better known as ‘tiny homes,’ to expand our local inventory of homes, perhaps focusing on a special populations.
“The conference ended with a time of remembrance for homeless brother and sisters who had passed this year, reminding us of the dire consequences of homelessness left unattended. As parishes and attendees absorb the thoughts shared at the Summit, we pray for expanded partnerships to spring up in different neighborhoods as well as new homes created to help chip away at this huge community challenge.”
You can continue “talking story” with Kimo about collaborating with IHS by contacting him at KimoC@IHS-Hawaii.org. Mahalo,
Your friends at the Office for Social Ministry