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by Leslie Ann Schipper, student writer

Director of Hawai‘i Helping the Hungry Have Hope, manager at the Next Step Shelter in Kaka‘ako, and founder of the “Walk the Talk Shelter the People” charity walk—these, are just a few titles HPU student Siuea “Utu” Langi holds. Langi, 40, was born and raised in Tonga and moved to Hawai‘i 20 years ago. Ten years ago a chance experience changed his life. Driving home at 3 a.m. after working a graveyard shift as a carpenter for M.A. Mortsen, Longi saw a homeless man curled up on a bus stop bench, knees tight to his chest, sleeping. A scene that has become all too familiar on O‘ahu.

Langi, a recent born-again Christian, pondered what he could do for the man. He didn’t get far before he turned around and drove back. “I thought, maybe this is my chance to do something,” said Langi. He grabbed the blanket he used to cover his tools and approached the man. It was the middle of winter, and he asked, what he said now is the “stupidest question” he’s ever asked someone: “Are you cold?” The man didn’t respond but Langi laid the blanket on him and quietly left.

This tiny gesture was the beginning of a revolution of ideas and actions he would take to aid the less fortunate. In the next couple of years, he would do everything in his power to help people all over O‘ahu. He handed out blankets on Christmas Eve. He started an afternoon barbecue every Friday at Ala Moana Beach Park. He established an after school program for children living in homeless shelters that provide food for around 40 children a day. He established the Kaka‘ako Homeless Shelter, which feeds approximately 6,000 people a month. He recently began a charity walk that has raised thousands of dollars for homeless programs.

The ‘Walk the Talk, Shelter the People’ program is one that Langi is very passionate about. The walk is a 10- day, 130-mile journey around the island that was started to “bring awareness to the homeless problem,” said Langi.

For the past two years, the walk has taken place on National Homeless Awareness Week, the second week in November. It kicked off on Nov. 7 at the State Capitol, and participants included residents, advocates, and homeless people.

Throughout the walk, participants would stop at churches and other spots to talk about the growing homeless problem, possible solutions, and personal experiences.

Langi was pleased with the outcome this year stating, “People are getting more involved which is the goal. You can get people aware, but now the key is are they going to do anything.”
The third annual walk raised about $7,000, which will go to another of Langi’s ideas, the bus project.

The bus project will use 18 tour buses donated by Robert’s Hawai‘i and convert them to provide housing for homeless people. The transformed buses will be parked in spots around the island at night so that the homeless will have a comfortable place to sleep. It can sleep up to eight people a night using bunk beds. The buses will be used strictly at night as during the day they will be moved for maintenance and cleaning.

At the moment, the bus project has not started because of lack of space for the buses. Langi hopes that in the next couple of weeks, space will be provided for the buses to park overnight.
No matter what project Langi is working on, his goal is always the same.

“ The bottom line is to get help for people. I hope that my ideas will spark other peoples ideas,” said Langi.

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