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35 years and 12 million meals later, River of Life Mission serves last meal at Chinatown location

Noe Tanigawa

After 35 years, the River of Life Mission has served its last meal to the homeless and needy at its main facility in Honolulu's Chinatown.

The ministry, which says it has served over 12 million meals, is turning to mobile outreach and serving the homeless in other areas of the city.

President Rann Watamull, who has been with the organization since it started its meal service decades ago, says ending operations there is bittersweet, but a good opportunity to refocus its mission.

"We could've stuck in a rut and said this is what we've done for 35 years, we're not changing. But the mission is the same, but the methods change. And so we definitely see that the method needs to change, but the mission is the same to reach people. And we can do that more effectively in smaller communities," Watamull said.

River of Life will be moving some of its operations to the city’s new Homeless Resource Center in Iwilei, and will also conduct outreach in places such as Sand Island and Keʻehi Lagoon to bring help to the homeless in those areas.

The mission's meal service in Chinatown has been blamed by some residents and merchants for attracting people with mental illness and criminals to the historic neighborhood.

Scott Kim was a news editor at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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