Finding Community and Home
Our vibrant gay community on the big island of Hawaii is one of the reasons I enjoy calling Puna “home”.
I vacationed on the Red Road back in 2005 on an invitation from a friend and on a whim.
What I found would eventually become my new home. I was counting on the natural beauty that Hawaii is known for but I encountered so much more. The aloha spirit permeated every aspect of life here. Everywhere I turned there was bountiful beauty and a cultural diversity that I had never experienced growing up in the Midwest United States. I also found a very vibrant and thriving gay community which welcomed me and countless others over the years.
Fast forward to 2021 and I have lived in East Hawaii for six years now. I have a home, I have a spiritual community I belong to, I have a very rich and diverse group of friends, and I also belong to Equality HI, a new non-profit entity with a vision of making the queer communities strong, vibrant and empowered to care for all of our inhabitants.
Equality HI believed as I did, that there is “strength in diversity.” This resonates deeply for me since I had sat on the board of a Level 1 Trauma hospital’s Diversity Council back in Michigan years before. Our motto back then was based on the Golden Rule, but with a very important twist. Instead of “do unto others as you would have done onto you,” we believed one should “do unto others how they choose to be treated.”
Equality HI’s Mission statement, “Equality HI envisions a thriving and empowered culture that proactively engages in creating an inclusive and diverse queer community through Aloha, leadership, resources and education,” was resounding deeply. And here I am looking to learn, create and nurture a community again outside of the healthcare career that I had for most of my life. While we say “we live in paradise,” there is a reality too that all the needs of the queer community are not met or could use help, to help us not only survive, but to thrive.
My goals for and with Equality HI are varied, but a core one for me is having safe and affordable housing. A place to call home envelopes so much for a person. It is/should be safe, emotionally and environmentally. It is needed for one’s identity today for many forms of governmental programs/assistance. It helps to integrate into a community, or can insulate one from the community at times too.
Here in Hawaii, we have a huge homeless and at risk population, one of the largest in our country. While there are many reasons for homelessness, the outcomes and damaging effects are pretty much the same. Lack of programs and assistance due to lack of address is real. This can mean loss of income, loss of healthcare, loss of family and friends, the list is endless. Youth can lose their ability to finish their education and many fall victim to sex trafficking. People lose their contact with healthcare and getting needed medications. Nutrition becomes a reality and contributes to co-morbidities.
My goal is to help make having a safe and comfortable place for those at need or at risk to be able to call home and to have agencies recognize it as such so needed services can be provided. Equality HI can’t provide the physical space needed at this time, but we are positioning ourselves to help with resource management and information that could get a person assistance for temporary and possible permanent housing.
Equality HI has a board comprised of many talented and dedicated souls, many who have worked tirelessly in the non-profit sector of the workplace. Their knowledge and fundamental understanding of a non-profit and the community we live in helps with making the contacts needed to provide services for those souls in need and at risk.
Youth at risk due to family dysfunctional dynamics is real. Couch surfing or worse is real too. Providing a place to call/contact and then having resources to give these kids can mean the difference between thriving and growing into a valuable part of society or falling into survival mode and sex trafficking/drug usage and trade. We are all too familiar with how this can play out in a negative fashion with these kids at risk having a stable place to call home, but there is also another emerging population at risk, our aging queer community.
Many of our aged gay people are finding themselves alone, vulnerable, physically compromised and financially ill equipped to maintain a home too. Any one of minor set backs in any of the afore mentioned areas of risk can cause a ripple effect that in the end, if not caught, cause an ill equipped older gay person to lose their home, their identity, their life long belongings and compound their health and financial issues.
Many times help is available but the person in need does know how to access assistance or where to plug into. This is where Equality HI could help, by having a data base of resources that specifically deal with such needs. Equality HI could also work to assist immediate needs financially once fundraising and grants come into fruition.
There is a need for many facets of the queer community, not all are dire and not all are perfunctory, some are pure fun and entertaining too! I invite all who can to be part of Equality HI in what ever way they can, financially or otherwise. (We are currently looking for talented and professional/business savvy board members.)
I look forward to personal growth with my association with Equality HI and East Hawaii, but I also hope I can help keep our queer communities safe and thriving too.
EqualityHi is just beginning, so come be part of something bigger that ones self and realize we can make a difference.