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300-Mile Walk Brings Homelessness Into Focus

July 12, 2016, 11:22 AM HST
* Updated October 18, 2:19 PM
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Dr. Clifford Kopp. Photo: Jamilia Epping/The Food Basket – Hawai`i Island’s Food Bank

Kailua-Kona Dentist Dr. Clifford Kopp completed his 300-mile trek against homelessness at the end of June.

It was journey was his fourth walk in a series that began last December, when Dr. Kopp decided to shed light to the issue of unsheltered homelessness on Hawai`i Island.

Dr. Kopp, who first placed his focus on the island’s unsheltered homelessness issue last year, has outlined an idea for Kukuiola Village, 12 and 48-bed housing concepts, which would shelter 300 people in West Hawai’i.

The layout, according to Dr. Kopp, would provide an affordable and practical way of sheltering the homeless before providing services to transition into more permanent living situations.

The walk, however, stems from a lack of being heard, Dr. Kopp said.

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“In a very minimal way, I got to realize how homeless people live,” said Dr. Kopp. “It reinforced the need to get those who are living unsheltered and homeless into shelters, protected and cared for. That’s what’s it’s all about and why I walked. I walked for awareness and I walked for shelters.”

In ten days, Dr. Kopp traveled counter clockwise on Hawai`i Island, beginning in Kona on June 12. Next he walEdk through Pāhoa town on June 15, where, in coordination with The Food Basket – Hawai‘i Island’s Food Bank, a community food outreach was held.

In total, 120 community members were served at the event, and Dr. Kopp gained the attention of local political figures and others who stopped by to hear about his plans to resolve unsheltered homelessness.

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On Sunday, June 19, Dr. Kopp, along with four others, took an overnight Native Hawaiian spiritual walk down Pololu Valley. Through rain, darkness and with a broken walking stick, Dr. Kopp and the others emerged from the valley and began the final stretch towards Kona.

Dr. Kopp closed out his trek in a familiar place: home. Beginning the journey just ten days prior, Dr. Kopp called the return “something not everyone is fortunate to have.”

Through a partnership with The Food Basket, Dr. Kopp has offered a $5,000 donation match to aid in The Food Basket’s mission to feed the hungry in Hawai`i County.

“Dr. Kopp’s efforts are a reminder that we can never be complacent,” said En Young, executive director of The Food Basket. “We see his walk as inspiring, because it is crazy, physically demanding and dangerous. The part of his point that we often miss is that this chosen experience is reality for many people. Driving is not an option; shelter is not an option for many of our residents here. His message for us is to stop taking our living situations for granted.”

Dr. Kopp on the third day of his fourth walk around the island to raise awareness of unsheltered homelessness on the Big Island. Photo: Jamilia Epping, The Food Basket

Dr. Kopp on the third day of his fourth walk around the island to raise awareness of unsheltered homelessness on the Big Island. Photo: Jamilia Epping, The Food Basket

To learn more about The Food Basket, or to donate funds to help support The Food Basket’s mission, visit HawaiiFoodBasket.org.

 

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