Sheltering, Mentoring Our Homeless Youths


By Kacy Strickland, executive director, Kokua Compassion Group

“Lani,” a sixth-grader with a quick smile and a sweet but shy disposition, lives at an emergency homeless shelter in Kapolei.

We met Lani more than a year ago, when we began our tutoring and mentoring program at the shelter. Lani’s mom moved here from the Marshall Islands hoping for a better life and education for her children. Like many immigrants in similar situations, their family wasn’t prepared for the extreme cost of living in Hawaii and soon found themselves homeless.

Kokua Compassion Group volunteer Dennis Hida (left) with shelter residents at last year’s Literacy Carnival PHOTO FROM KCG

Kokua Compassion Group volunteer Dennis Hida (left) with shelter residents at last year’s Literacy Carnival PHOTO FROM KCG

This led them to the shelter, where we encountered Lani during our biweekly tutoring sessions. Partway through the school year, Lani’s mom died unexpectedly, leaving her an orphan in the custody of her older sister, an uneducated 19-year-old mother of two. It was under these circumstances that our nonprofit Kokua Compassion Group was able to live out its mission with Lani.

Established in 2011, Kokua Compassion Group (KCG) was created to help combat the growing epidemic of homelessness in Leeward Oahu by targeting homeless youths.

Our mission is to motivate and mentor Hawaii’s underprivileged keiki for a brighter future.

We use a twofold approach.

First, we develop positive mentoring relationships that support vulnerable youths navigating everyday life.

Second, we provide academic support through tutoring and enrichment activities.

We currently work on-site at a local shelter housing approximately 200 people, more than half of whom are the children we serve.

When Lani’s mom passed away, Lani needed support and resources that her sister couldn’t provide. Lani needed help with homework, but more importantly, she needed a web of support to help her feel safe and loved in a devastating situation. Through tutoring and mentoring, KCG helped meet these needs. Lani graduated fifth grade with her class last spring, and is recovering emotionally from the loss of her mom. She remains part of our program.

KCG is a growing organization with a big vision. To volunteer, donate and to learn more about what we do, visit our website: You also can support us by joining our upcoming benefit golf/foot golf tournament Aug. 22. Visit for details.