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by Maria Calderon-Saban, JOUR 3300

 

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the unmistakable smell of curry beef stew wafts in my apartment windows. My neighbors, Dave Frankovic and Earl Chang, have begun cooking the 40-plus meals they will distribute to the homeless at at Kailua District Park or Kailua Beach Park.

Every Wednesday and Thursday more than 40 homeless people gather for “a meal with a message.” Along with a hot dinner, they have an opportunity to receive counseling, drug rehabilitation, job placement, and even Bible study.

The founder of the feasts, Earl Chang, is a minister of Hope Chapel-Olomana, part of an interdenominational network of churches called Foursquare, but the meal is open to all, regardless of religion. Even those who eat and run are welcome.

“The point is to get them here and get them talking,” Frankovic explained. “And then give them a message with their meal, so they can find the strength to change.” To encourage their clients to stay for counseling, the group offers a number of extras: personal hygiene products such as soap and toothbrushes as well as clothing and blankets.

“ Clothes and blankets go fastest,” said Frankovic.

Most importantly, the homeless receive support and encouragement to get back on their feet, something that is becoming more difficult to do with the real estate crisis, the rising prices of food and gasoline, and the ever-present lure of drugs and alcohol.

Chang and Frankovic have special bonds with the people they help, most of whom are afflicted with a drug or alcohol problem. Both men, tattooed and hulking at six-feet plus, battled their own similar demons before deciding to change and help others.

“I got this whole idea from an organization called Dream Center L.A.,” Chang said about his more involved approach to the homeless situation. His plans for a Dream Center Hawai‘i include programs to help the poor with warrants and tickets, along with all the things his ministry has already implemented. Also in the plans is an “Adopt the Homeless” program where volunteers befriend and support the less fortunate.

In the last two years the homeless population of Hawai‘i has increased more than 40 percent, according to the Honolulu Community Action Program (HCAP). Attendance at the free dinners has also increased, thus the need for two different nights and locations. As the numbers of Hawai‘i’s hungry poor continues to rise, so do the efforts of those who fight to keep it at bay.

Chang’s current supporters include the Hawai‘i Foodbank, Starbucks, Costco, Safeway, Foodland, and others. To volunteer or make a donation, call 620-7696.
 

 

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