Program helps homeless people get rides, do their laundry

Share Your Mana, MEO offer services to people without transportation

Volunteers load bags of laundry onto a Maui Economic Opportunity bus before transporting them to the Happy Valley Laundromat last week. —Photo courtesy of Lisa Darcy, founder of Share Your Mana

A new program is offering rides to a local laundromat for homeless individuals at Kanaha who have no access to transportation and no way to wash their clothes.

Once a week, the Kuleana Clean program comes to Pu’uhonua O Kanaha, a homeless encampment, on Amala Road to take people from the beach park to Happy Valley Laundromat. Up to 10 people can be transported at one time to maintain social distancing. Masks are required.

The program, a partnership between Share Your Mana and Maui Economic Opportunity, began July 14 and will run on every Tuesday until Aug. 14 — though organizers are looking for ways to help keep it going.

“The mission of the program is to remove transportation barriers for houseless individuals, allowing them to wash their laundry to improve the health and wellness and self esteem of their families and themselves,” said Debbie Cabebe, MEO chief executive officer.

Two designated pickup areas are located on the opposite ends of Kanaha — one by the parking area and the other by Island Grocery — where clients are picked up around 9 and 9:10 a.m. and return by noon to the same areas.

Share your Mana founder Lisa Darcy (left) takes a selfie with volunteer Margie Calpico. — Photo courtesy of Lisa Darcy

Masks are available for those who do not have one, as well as other sanitizing products. In general, Share Your Mana has given out masks every day in the past four months amid the pandemic, nonprofit founder Lisa Darcy said.

Kuleana Clean came about after Share Your Mana continued to see the “extreme hardships those living unsheltered and houseless have endured due to the COVID-19 pandemic shelter-in-place limitations,” said Darcy, who has also worked with the Point In Time Count, Maui Homeless Alliance and others groups.

When the coronavirus shuttered parks and businesses, residents in the area lost previously donated items, such as food, water and access to electricity and bathrooms.

“We may not notice these things, and we often take them for granted, but for those sliding between poverty and safety, they are enormous losses,” Darcy said Monday.

Pandemic-related financial burdens also have led to an increase in unsheltered people, and Darcy said she has seen many new faces on the streets.

Most people utilizing the Kuleana Clean service want to do their own laundry, she said. They just need the means to get to a laundromat.

Margie Calpico, a lead volunteer, said Tuesday that she’s “happy that MEO helped” with transportation and that her favorite part of the program has been folding laundry and assisting others. Personally, Calpico said that Kuleana Clean has allowed her to bring in laundry for her own family too, and she’s thankful that the program has shared the cost and offered supplies.

“MEO is a community action agency charged with assisting those in poverty,” Cabebe said via email to The Maui News. “We recognize the complexity of the issues of poverty and engage community partners in solutions to assist low-income individuals and families become healthy and stable.”

One load of laundry typically costs between $5 to $8. Over the past several months, Share Your Mana noticed towels and blankets were among the biggest financial burdens for people — two minutes in the dryer costs about 25 cents.

“After paying attention to the individual barriers that individuals face with money, energy, cost and even lugging your laundry detergent around, I started the Kuleana Clean with my volunteers,” Darcy said.

As an initial pilot project, two Share Your Mana volunteers and a few residents did 22 loads of laundry at Happy Valley Laundromat, which was paid for by the nonprofit and a donation from Maui resident Amorah St. John. The funds went toward washing and drying costs, detergent, fabric softener and garbage bags to transport laundry.

After volunteers and Pu’uhonua O Kanaha residents finished the first laundry run, Darcy said they “all agreed it was successful and definitely wanted to keep it going.” However, the biggest challenge for the nonprofit was organizing transportation for pickup and dropoff for those who do not have vehicles.

“It was really evident that this was a major issue, getting back and forth to a laundromat,” she said. “Personally knowing Debbie made reaching out simple and so Share Your Mana decided to reach out to MEO to see if it was feasible to create a weekly run.”

Share Your Mana also conducted community volunteer outreaches, including Nectar and The Maui Songha in Haiku, which did a blanket and pillow drive that netted about 25 of each, and another community project that collected 100 towels.

Following the Kuleana Clean laundry program, Share Your Mana collaborated with community advocate Anna Mayeda and Jamie Lanias-Newkirk, owner of Maui’s Quality Dry Cleaning and Laundry, in helping to initiate another program that focuses on swapping and providing clean blankets and towels — the heavier items which cost more to dry and transport.

This new Maui Quality Cleaners project became “another wonderful partnership,” Darcy said, and runs twice a month whenever there is a lull in regular business and offers up to 60 items at a time.

“So those are two separate projects,” she said. “Both times, though, the most significant piece to this is the transportation.”

Kuleana Clean was originally scheduled to operate as long as needed, but recent budget cuts to MEO will end the program next month. Darcy is hoping to find alternative transportation to continue the program, and Cabebe said MEO might be able to help connect the clients with Family Life Center or Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers for housing and wraparound services.

To continue operating beyond the Aug. 14 end date, Darcy is seeking committed volunteers who are available for up to four hours on Tuesdays. She’s also looking for donations or a partnership with an organization who could offer transportation.

“This is just the first chapter, it’s such a huge help in hygiene support,” she said. “This is just a prototype to demonstrate to the whole island what ohanas are going through — some are living outside and not housed — so if we can create places where a van can pick people up, oh my gosh, it’s wonderful the amount of relief this brings, it’s really significant.”

For more information about Share Your Mana and how to volunteer, visit shareyourmana.org or email lisa@shareyourmana.org.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.


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