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Helping the Hungry and Homeless

November 1, 2021

From the Office for Social Ministry

Feeding and housing people is a priority of our Catholic Church and a core part of our Catholic Social Teaching. In the Last Judgment (Matthew 25), Jesus instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.  In the Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), Pope Francis encourages us to “be merciful and just--as your Father is merciful.”  We are further reminded not to judge or condemn others; but to “forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you…for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6).  Loving one another–even those we don’t know, is the greatest commandment. Feeding the hungry and helping the homeless find shelter are just a few ways that we as a church can share our love with others.

November 13-21 marks Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week across the country. Sponsored by National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, the movement calls attention to the crisis that impacts all communities in Hawaii and the U.S. Every little bit helps to chip away at this huge but necessary task of caring for our dear neighbor.  Here in the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu, our parish communities feed the hungry through food pantry distributions, food collections to support neighboring pantries, hot meal and keiki backpack deliveries and more. Our homeless outreach ministries also collect donations of necessities such as food, clothing, blankets, and toiletries to offer homeless persons who are transitioning from shelters to permanent housing. Parishioners also donate new or gently used household items to help new residents settle in their new dwelling places.  Everyone is called to be good and faithful stewards by selflessly sharing our time, talent and treasure. 

If your parish has a food pantry, consider volunteering your time with prepping bags, greeting patrons, directing traffic or helping to load food bags or boxes onto carts or into cars.  Some feeding programs include church pantries that distribute keiki backpacks once or twice a month.  Backpacks are filled with kid-friendly breakfast, lunch and snacks to supplement food insecure households.  On Kauai and Oahu, the Hawaii Food Bank sponsors FOOD 4 KEIKI School Pantries on a handful of school campuses.  Do you know of a school pantry operating in your neighborhood?   Perhaps you can find ways to support distribution through parishes who are member agencies of the Food Bank?  Donated non-perishable food items are always needed at your parish pantry, at your local Food Bank or collections anywhere in your community!

Parish ministries partner and support social service agencies who provide professional care to houseless individuals and families.  Parish volunteers help to organize donation drives and distribution at shelters serving veterans, families with children, persons with mental illness and more.  Because the homeless population is so diverse, it’s especially important that we rely on guidance by partner agencies.  Most providers and related stakeholders are part of Hawaii’s statewide Continua of Care whose mission includes planning, coordinating and advocating for programs that serve the homeless.  They are (1) Partners in Care or PIC on Oahu and (2) Bridging the Gap or BTG whose kuleana encompasses the Counties of Hawaii, Kauai and Maui.  Find an agency to support this November…and let’s all work together to end hunger and homelessness in Hawaii!