A hot shower and a laundry basket full of clean clothes. These are everyday amenities some of us take for granted.
But for many of Maui’s unsheltered residents, these are luxuries that can restore dignity and hope.
Guy Harshman of Old Republic Title has seen this firsthand as a member of the West Maui Community Task Force, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides support to West Maui residents in need. The task force is composed of more than a dozen volunteers, including five Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) members: Harshman, Carol Brown of RE/MAX Island Properties, P. Denise La Costa and Siu Whitehead of La Costa Realty Hawaii, and Kyoko Wills of Old Republic Title.
Since the first week of July, task force members have served lunches every Friday to West Maui’s unsheltered through a partnership with Maui Rescue Mission, a nonprofit that brings hygiene services directly to unhoused residents. In January of 2019, Maui Rescue Mission debuted the island’s first mobile hygiene trailer equipped with a full bathroom and two stacked washer-dryer units. It initially provided services to clients in South Maui, but has since expanded to serve those living in Central and West Maui. The volunteer-staffed mobile resource center visits three outreach sites every week: Lahaina Baptist Church on Wednesdays and Fridays, Kanaha Beach Park on Thursdays and Hope Chapel in Kihei on Saturdays.
The trailer arrives at each site at 10 a.m., and in the hours that follow, people take turns using the private bathroom and washing and drying their clothes. Apart from having a safe place to use the restroom, shower and do their laundry, they can also check their email, charge their phones, and get free counseling. Maui Rescue Mission also helps clients access available resources, and as part of a larger network of rescue missions, it connects those who want to get clean and sober to mainland-based recovery programs.
In early July, the West Maui Community Task Force partnered with Maui Rescue Mission to host “Pizza Friday” at the Lahaina Baptist Church outreach site. Every Friday, task force members set up a small tent near Maui Rescue Mission’s hygiene trailer and serve pizza slices, snacks and ice-cold water to people as they wait to use the shower or for their laundry to wash and dry. Harshman says Pizza Friday has been a big hit since day one. “There are so many mahalos,” he said. “You can see the gratitude in their eyes.”
When Pizza Friday began, the task force served meals to around 20 people; that number has now grown to more than 50. In addition to purchasing and serving lunch, Harshman and his fellow task force members assemble and distribute care bags filled with items like soap, lotion, first aid kits, sunscreen, toothbrushes, toothpaste and protective face masks.
Formerly known as the Women Helping Women West Maui Task Force, the renamed West Maui Community Task Force expanded its mission in 2019 to help, support, and give with aloha to those in need in the West Maui community. Since then, in addition to assisting Women Helping Women, the group has collected and donated 372 pairs of slippers to West Maui’s elementary schools through an inaugural “Slippahs Drive” last summer; they also teamed up with Imua Family Services’ Dream Imua program to host a holiday party for a deserving family last Christmas. “Wherever we see a need, we will do whatever we can to take care of it,” Harshman said.
Pizza Friday is the task force’s most recent effort and Harshman says the group plans to continue hosting the Friday lunches as long as they are needed. They also hope to do more for the West Maui community in the days to come. You can help them by making a tax-deductible donation. To contribute, visit charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/wmctf-pizza-fridays. For more information about the West Maui Community Task Force, visit www.wmctf.com or email email@example.com. For more information about Maui Rescue Mission, visit www.mauirescuemission.org.
The Maui News – September 7, 2020