Poverty in Paradise

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Army serves growing homeless population

by Sue Schumann Warner –

Patrick Foyle, Kahului programs supervisor, talks with a new client at Kalama Park [Photo by Sue Schumann Warner].

While Maui may seem like paradise to tourists…blue skies, warm sun, surf, and palm trees swaying in the breeze…there is a darker side to this tropical island: a growing community of unsheltered homeless.

Often, in the shadows of the opulent high rise hotels and condos—and within sight of $5 million residences—tents, trees, and tennis courts, as well as cars and other improbable accommodations, are home to men, women, and children who sleep each night without a safe or permanent living arrangement. Some became homeless after losing a job; others, already homeless, ended up in Maui after being given a one-way plane ticket from one of several states or municipalities on the mainland.

A significant number of homeless work, but do not make a “living wage.” Almost 50 percent are U.S. veterans; 1,700 of Maui’s 2,000 homeless are registered clients with The Salvation Army.

Why homeless? An initial, unexpected event can start a downward spiral. One man, who made his living as a carpenter, descended into homelessness when his van was stolen; the van contained all of his tools. With no van or tools, his livelihood was gone. Soon, he lost his apartment. Within a few short months he was homeless.

Others end up living in the bush as a result of an addiction: perhaps alcohol, meth, or other drugs.

It’s tough to get work when your clothes are covered in mud from sleeping outside during a rainstorm; it’s hard to be positive when you’ve got bronchitis and no place to be safe, warm, and clean so you can recover; and it’s just about impossible to believe the future can be better when each day is so overwhelmingly difficult.

The Army offers a chance for many to break their cycle of homelessness. Its caring ministry provides hope, practical help, and a spiritual framework that leads to wholeness.

“It is the holistic ministry of The Salvation Army that is so remarkable and effective,” stated Hawaii and Pacific Islands Divisional Commander Major Edward Hill. “As we reach into a person’s heart with the gospel message, something miraculous happens to be sure, but it is only the genesis of transformation that eventually impacts a person’s physical, social and relational well being.

“The Army’s work with the homeless in Maui captures the spirit of our true spiritual roots and mission. John Wesley and William Booth would enthusiastically approve of our ministry here. So would the Lord Jesus Christ. His name is being preached to folks not unlike those he served and loved during his own powerful and compassionate ministry.”

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