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Aid for the houseless community

WAILUA — “Come, Hawaiian,” said Rowena Contrades-Pangan. “You were the first one to come through the shower. Now, we’re going to get you some food, a bag of groceries and a meal.”

Contrades-Pangan of Ho‘omana Thrift Store in Wailua collaborated with a host of community agencies and businesses to provide Na Wai Eha on Saturday afternoon at the thrift store near the northern bank of the Wailua River.

“This is something we just got together and did,” said Kamealoha Smith, representing the Hanalei River Heritage Foundation. Ho‘omana, the County of Kaua‘i and many others teamed up to provide the relief and aid offering.

“‘Aina Ulu Kaua‘i is a farmers’ cooperative that’s providing the package of fresh fruit and vegetables. When you’re living out in the open, it’s hard to eat healthy,” Smith said. “We encourage healthy eating and, sometimes, we include recipes for dishes the people can create using whatever is being distributed.”

Geared to providing relief for the houseless community, Contrades-Pangan was thrilled with the turnout that kept vendors busy throughout the three-hour period. Among them were Women In Need, Kaua‘i Government Employees Federal Credit Union offering both individuals and families help filling out forms for housing assistance.

“This is more people than we’ve had at any of our in-person assistance programs,” said Bonnie Howard, representing KGEFCU and the county’s 2021 Rental and Utilities Assistance program.

“We went through six application in the first 15 minutes. That’s more than any singular assistance-program appearance anywhere. We’re going to try and come back a couple of times a month when they do this on Fridays.”

Other participating vendors offering services included the state Department of Health with the mobile vaccine van; Ho‘ola Lahui Hawai‘i with medical assistance; Office of Hawaiian Affairs; Jr.’s Plumbing and the Aloha Diaper Bank.

“No, we don’t have adult sizes yet,” said Debra Bargamento-Hento, offering diapers and women’s hygenic needs packages, to Mel Rapozo, who stopped in to watch the inclusive aid being presented.

“We represent the Aloha Diaper Bank that is based on O‘ahu, and we’re getting material to distribute to those agencies and organizations on-island that include keiki in their service offerings,” Bargamento-Hento said.

”Do you know how much diapers cost? They’re not cheap, and there are stories of people washing the disposable diapers to reuse because they can’t afford diapers.”

Some of the services for the attending audience included vouchers for clothing from the Ho‘omana inventory, the Hi‘ehi‘e mobile hot showers, basic medical and wound care, assistance with EBT/SNAP (formerly food stamp) applications, housing aid and COVID-19 vaccinations.

“We got our first (dose),” Claire and Robert Beck said, proudly displaying their shirts that were given following their vaccinations. “We’ll be back for our second.”

The Project Vision Hawai‘i Hi‘ehi‘e mobile hot-shower unit also recorded high numbers from the start of the program.

“There is nothing like a hot shower to make you feel good,” Contrades-Pangan said. “The mobile shower will be back Fridays when Ho‘omana continues this service from 2 to 5 p.m.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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