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Social distancing protects the homeless

Confronting Homelessness

In the last few weeks, our world has completely changed. Because of this, it is extremely important to follow the mayor’s and governor’s directive to stay home and practice social distancing. These safety measures are exactly the same for everyone, including those housed and those who are houseless. Mayor Victorino and the Maui County Administration are working day and night to limit the exposure of COVID-19 to the Maui community. The more that people follow these directives, the sooner we can get back to normal. You can find the most updated information at mauicounty.gov as well as at hawaiicovid19.com.

It is during times like these that we all have to band together and do what is right. Even though we have all witnessed hoarding and greed, I personally believe that the aloha spirit is alive and well. The majority of the people on Maui are loving and caring. When push comes to shove, the Maui community will shine brightly with aloha and the generosity it represents.

For those of you who want to help our unsheltered neighbors, it is vital that you follow the safety procedures outlined by Gov. Ige and Mayor Victorino so that virus transmission can be circumvented. Many of you may not realize that on Maui, the homeless lifestyle is in itself a practice of social distancing, just by the nature of how they live. We need to be careful and not force them to interact with us or others; by doing so, you can unwittingly endanger their health. Very few of the houseless on Maui have exposure to visitors or travelers from Rome, Las Vegas, New York, Washington or other parts of the world. It is my personal opinion that they are probably less at risk than the rest of us, and we need to protect them from any and all needless exposure.

It is also important to remember that there are a number of essential service agencies and nonprofits who are daily showing up for work during this time including homeless shelters, homeless outreach services, mental health services and food distribution agencies and pantries, to name a few. Their mission is to help the underprivileged in the Maui community. Some of these organizations function with the sole purpose of directly helping those who are not living in a home.

Since so many of you have expressed a desire to help (for your safety and the safety of your family and friends), it would be a worthy endeavor to help an agency whose expertise is working with those who are houseless and one that has all the necessary safety measures in place. This will safeguard your resources of time, goods and money so that what you donate can be put to use in a productive manner. This way you can serve the community while following the proper procedures that will keep you, your donations and everyone involved protected.

Agencies, individuals and service groups who want to help with donations or volunteer time and/or services can call the nonprofit agency of their choice. And if you are unsure of which agency to call, you can contact The Maui United Way at (808) 244-8787 or The Aloha United Way at 211 to help you find the right fit for your contributions. You can also register as a volunteer at Maui County’s Hands On Maui by visiting www.handsonmaui.com. The phone number is (808) 270-7150.

* Joyce Kawakami is a full-time volunteer, founder and CEO of Feed My Sheep Inc. As an active member of the Maui Homeless Alliance, she chairs the Awareness Committee.

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