Wanted: People of action


Share Your Mana recently had the privilege of coordinating a talk story session with state House Rep. Andria Tupola from Oahu at Saint Theresa’s church in Kihei to share her mana and wisdom on issues relating to homelessness on Oahu’s west side.

Having previously collaborated on this community need after meeting her two years ago while presenting on a panel in Honolulu, I knew what to expect. However, those who had not yet met her were in for an eye-opening experience.

Tupola is energetic, determined and perceptually fearless. Her direct, straightforward style is inclusive to all, which addresses everyone and every aspect equally. Take that statement literally.

She distilled the session to address six categories: leaders, coordination, short-term solutions, immediate housing, gaps and trash removal. She focuses on issues with precision, transparency and full accountability. She immediately homed in on our statewide and local gaps in communication and collaboration that prohibit projects from moving forward.

Arriving on Maui 14 years ago to address the mental health services crisis as a result of the class-action lawsuit the Felix Consent Decree, I was struck by the repeated statements: “That’s the way we do it here” and “Slow down this ain’t the Mainland.” The lack of urgency with the magnitude of the problem was baffling and there was palpable resistance to the new concepts I offered. Since my arrival, the struggle to make a gear change has been a long time in coming.

Enter Tupola, who reflects this gear change. Sitting next to her, it was impossible not to sense her drive and desire to implement positive community changes. She exemplifies community representation through her willingness to explore every aspect of the needs of her community. She has a proven “get ‘er done/can do” attitude, and even gifted Maui with an actual “how to” step-by-step guide to tackle the trash issue, including the costs associated with trash removal that come with so many people living unsheltered.

The laid-back style of Maui can be a significant hindrance, but after listening to Tupola’s stalwart efforts I left our session realizing accountability starts with — me. We all need to hold ourselves, and those who are in responsible roles to address these needs, accountable. An easy way to do that is to show up at your local community association meetings.

Every community association has meetings and they are designed to capture the voices and needs of each unique community. Invite your state/local representatives. Invite the Department of Housing and Human Concerns and the Maui Homeless Alliance to share their progress and challenges. It is time for Maui community members to interact directly with county/state, nonprofit or for-profit agencies, and if no avenue exists, it’s time to create them.

Individuals and families who are living on our streets, in our parks, in their cars and without the dignity of a bathroom take on a lower position in our community. If we want that to change, every single one of us has to be part of the solution to help them rise up.

As Tupola noted, “We must look at the needs from the inside out.” Poverty, addiction and mental health issues are not just local issues, they are national issues — but we still need local, out-of-the-box, short-term solutions. Maui needs courageous, compassionate community leaders and courageous, compassionate elected officials.

* Lisa Darcy is the founder of Share Your Mana, the newly incorporated 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to transform the lives of the homeless through innovative solutions supported by the community. For more information, see www.shareyourmana.org.