Hospitality, the willingness to offer shelter and food to strangers, is an ancient practice. It is a virtue praised in many religious traditions and an ethic that Neighborhood Place of Puna tries to embody.
This ethic was tested late in the day, on the eve of the Veterans’ day holiday, when Neighborhood Place of Puna received a call from a government official who was looking to help a young homeless woman. The woman, a thin, good-hearted woman with a deep religious spirit, had been camping on public lands. It was obvious something bad had happened and that she desperately needed shelter, safety, and friendship.
Neighborhood Place of Puna is not a homeless shelter. The easiest and safest course of action, the “reasonable” course of action, would have been to turn this woman away. There are, after all, concerns and risks when giving shelter to strangers.
However, we cannot allow fear to rule our lives. It is easy and safe to say no to the stranger, the outsider, and the unknown. As human beings, who depend so completely on others for our very existence, do we not have a moral obligation to help our Brothers and Sisters in need?
In order for the homeless to have homes and the hungry to be fed, someone has to say yes when asked for shelter or food. Someone has to be willing to take responsibility for the well-being of their neighbors.
That’s why Neighborhood Place of Puna said yes to this woman. We found her a temporary place to stay, a place where she could be safe. We also connected her with a program that could help with more permanent housing. During all of this, we talked with her, shared food, and learned a little about her and her life. In the process of helping and sharing, we ourselves were enriched.
This is the work of Compassion. Certainly finding shelter for this homeless woman was outside of the scope of the work which Neighborhood Place of Puna generally does. The work of helping families raise safe and healthy children. Nevertheless, Neighborhood Place of Puna tries to be part of the solution. During this time of Natural Disasters, a time when shelters are filled to overflowing and there is no affordable housing available, Neighborhood Place of Puna does what it always does. We help people find stability and safety by connecting them to resources, teaching basic skills, and advocating on their behalf.
Paul Normann, Executive DirectorImage: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tawheedmanzoor/