Star-Advertiser 6/27/12: Homeless to Work on Kalihi Church’s Waianae Farm

[Note: The following excerpts, photos, and captions are from the 6/27/12 Star-Advertiser. Click here to read the complete article.]

Kalihi Church’s Plan Draws Applause, Questions

Homeless Tapped to Work Waianae Farm
By Dan Nakaso
Photos by Dennis Oda
Jun 27, 2012

Included in the Waianae property purchased by Hawaii Cedar Church are four homes, three of which are in this photo. The homeless workers would live in a 12-bedroom house that needs to be renovated.

Hawaii Cedar Church is buying 4 acres in Waianae Valley on which two dozen homeless people currently residing on the Kalihi church’s grounds will be sent to live and farm the land. Sookie Haymes, a team leader in the church’s homeless/drug treatment project, stood Tuesday on part of the property – which is in escrow — overlooking land on which bok choy is being grown.

A Korean Assembly of God church in Kalihi that currently houses 35 homeless people in tents on its grounds plans to move two dozen of its homeless clients to help run a farm in Waianae Valley in the next several weeks.

State lawmakers who have been wrestling with homeless issues from Waikiki to Kalihi to Waianae had not heard of the plan by Hawaii Cedar Church on Kamehameha IV Road, but offered praise Tuesday after the church’s announcement.

State Sen. Maile Shimabukuro (D, [Kalaeloa-Ka’ena Point]), said, “If it’s legal, it sounds like a good idea.”

Her only concern was that the farm would be used to help homeless people coming from Kalihi, rather than Waianae homeless people who also need housing.

“These people are coming from outside Waianae into Waianae,” Shimabukuro said. “It would be nicer and better if they were from Wai­anae.”

State Rep. John Mizuno (D, Kalihi), who has unsuccessfully pushed for the creation of a homeless “safe zone” somewhere on Oahu, said Hawaii Cedar Church’s plan can serve as an example for other churches and nonprofit organizations concerned about Hawaii’s homeless.

“Government can’t address homelessness alone,” Mizuno said. “Our church in Kalihi is taking the initiative. They’re not waiting for government and all the red tape and it’s a great idea. I’m hoping they’re completely successful.”

The Rev. Duk Whan Kim said through a translator Tuesday that the church is in escrow to buy four acres and four homes on Waianae Valley Road for $400,000 from Mountain View Dairy Inc.

Three of the homes are currently being rented and the fourth, which has 12 bedrooms, was built in 1934 and needs to be renovated.

But within a month to six weeks, Kim hopes to have two dozen homeless people living in the vacant house and working the land raising organically grown yams, Korean cabbage and mulberry.

Eventually, Kim hopes to buy adjacent 15 acres and build a kim chee factory and a store that would sell its produce and could employ as many as three dozen homeless people in the entire operation.

Many of the key details still have not been worked out yet, Kim said, such as how much produce and revenue the farm could yield — and whether it can be financially self-sustaining.

Asked wether[sic] the church has all of the necessary government approvals for the property, which is zoned for agriculture, Kim said, “Right now the city doesn’t know about it.… God will provide the things that we need.”

City Councilman Tom Berg, who represents Waianae, had not heard of the project but said he generally supported the idea.

There would be concerns about how many people can live in a single residence, Berg said.

“It depends on the size of the house,” Berg said. “You can only have so many unrelated people living in a home. … But, in general, we in government should get out of their way. Government is in their way. These homeless people just want to get on the farm and get their hands dirty and take pride and build themselves up.”

Hawaii Cedar Church still needs to raise $30,000 to renovate the house on Waianae Valley Road where the homeless clients would live. So the church plans to sell mandoo from July through August, in addition to holding a Koala Moa chicken fundraiser planned for Aug. 18.

Roberta Searle, chairwoman of the Waianae Neighborhood Board’s economic and development committee, operates two plumeria and pikake farms in Waianae where homeless people have lived and worked.

“I’m not sure how well this is going to fit with the community,” Searle said. “Even if it happens on private land, it still needs to come to the board’s attention.”

Searle has had homeless people beat their alcohol and drug addictions on her farms. She’s also had homeless people “who were dismissed from the job as well as from the property.”

Having homeless people living and working on a farm can lead to “all kinds of disastrous results,” Searle said. “There’s already enough crime in our community based on addictive behaviors. If the goal is to rehabilitate and get them back to be productive citizens, then by all means go ahead and do so. If they’re going to be monitored and evaluated in terms of making progress, then I wouldn’t have a problem with that.”

Colin Kippen, who just started his new job as Hawaii’s homeless coordinator, had not heard of Hawaii Cedar Church’s idea, but applauded the concept.

“More power to them,” Kippen said. “I’m just delighted to see what’s going to happen with this. Implementation aways raises concerns in terms of whether they’re safe and well-nourished and given proper care. But it sounds like they have all of the big pieces they need to be successful.”

[Click here to read the complete Star-Advertiser article.]

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