Buses House Homeless

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With breathtaking scenery at every turn, tour buses are all over the Hawaiian paradise of Oahu. A resourceful advocate for the homeless has found a way to recycle retired buses to shelter the homeless. It’s an idea other areas might be able to copy. Kim Riemland reports.    

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(Locator: Honolulu, Hawaii)

When most people think of Hawaii, this is what comes to mind: world famous beaches, relaxing in the sun, paradise.

What most don’t see is what’s been long-hidden, what’s well off the tour bus route: Hawaii’s homeless.

But Tonga native Utu Langi does see the problem plaguing paradise, and he’s found a creative way to address it.

Utu Langi, H-5 Program Founder: “So I thought to myself what would be a cheap way to get people just very basic shelter, and all of a sudden a big tour bus drove by us and I said ‘I wonder what bus companies do with their old buses?”

He didn’t just wonder; he found out.

(Langi talking on phone) “Hey Ernie, this is Utu…”

After phone calls, meetings and lots of prayer…

(Langi talking on phone) “…the proposal that I sent you with the buses.”

…he convinced a bus company to donate its retired tour buses to be transformed into mobile homeless shelters.

Utu Langi: “It’s a goofy bus, but it’s beautiful and it’s a nice, comfortable place to crash out in.”

Two of the buses are already remodeled, 16 more will be soon. Each bus can sleep eight people. With the promise of up to 20 bus donations each year, Utu envisions a fleet of change.

Utu Langi, H-5 Program Founder: “The cost of living here in Hawaii, you know, come on. I guess paradise costs a lot, you know.”

In 1996, with the help of his church - Honolulu First United Methodist - Utu founded the H-5 project: Hawaii Helping the Hungry Have Hope. He’s since arranged for two of the converted buses to park at a partner church, and another has been used by the Red Cross for emergency housing. It seems where others may see roadblocks, Utu always sees hope.

Utu Langi, H-5 Program Founder: “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”


In addition to the bus shelter ministry, the H-5 program distributes 2300 meals a month, six days a week, to homeless people living in the popular tourist area Waikiki.

For more information on the program, visit the H-5 Web site or call 808-522-0397.

Posted: Dec. 10, 2008