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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Chaminade students help homeless folks find jobs

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Students at the Hogan Entrepreneurial Program at Chaminade University, who produced a brochure on the benefits of hiring homeless workers last year, have now helped a handful of homeless people write resumes that have led to recent jobs.

"It made me realize how many (homeless) there are," said Kevin McDonald, a 22-year-old marketing senior at Chaminade who is in his second year of the Hogan program. "You see them everywhere and you look at them, but you don't realize the things that they might have gone through and how many people there are."

Two of the five homeless people from Wai'anae who received help from the Hogan students have gotten jobs in the past few weeks. At least one more will probably get an interview with Big City Diner.

The Hogan program is designed for highly motivated undergraduate and graduate students interested in entrepreneurial careers in business, government and nonprofit organizations.

Last year, the students produced a 12-page brochure encouraging businesses to hire homeless workers by highlighting local and federal tax credits and wage compensation programs. The brochure was sent to 1,500 O'ahu businesses.

Three months ago, Wai'anae social worker Sam Edwards introduced five homeless people to the students, who helped them with job-hunting and interviewing skills and helped them write resumes highlighted with their photos.

Lane Muraoka, president of the Big City Diner restaurant chain, has hired homeless and disabled employees in the past and in 2000 was named employer of the year by the state Department of Human Resources' Vocational Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind Division.

Muraoka joined the Hogan program's advisory board last year. Now he's interested in hiring one of the five homeless people for his Waipi'o restaurant.

"We've been trying to reach them," Muraoka said. "The hardest part is trying to get hold of them."

When he does interview homeless job seekers, Muraoka said, he wants to hear "where they want to go and how they're going to get there. If they're in a hole and they're committed to getting out, we'll give them a shot. Sometimes they only work for a day and never come back. Or they could be with us for the next 10 years."

Over the years that he has hired homeless people, Muraoka has developed a simple philosophy:

"There are good people out there people who deserve a second chance and could use a break," Muraoka said. "There might be a gem in there."

Ginger Hala, 25, was hired a couple of weeks ago at KFC-Hawai'i based on the resume the Hogan students helped her write. She could not be reached yesterday because she was busy working, said her grandmother, Alice Greenwood.

Hala has been homeless for nearly a year after a series of traumatic medical problems, Greenwood said.

"She's so proud now," Greenwood said. "She has a job."

Whether the students do anything more with homeless job-seekers, McDonald, the marketing senior, said he's already learned an important lesson.

"To be a leader means remembering our obligation to service and doing something for the community," McDonald said. "That's one big thing that I've gotten out of all of this."

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com.