Coronacare is a mutual aid network organizing to address the unmet needs of their community, whose conditions have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their efforts this past year have focused on delivering food and household supplies to thousands of community members. These include expecting mothers, elders, immuno-compromised people, and other working families across the entire island of O‘ahu who have been negatively impacted by the disastrous local and national government response to the pandemic.
As Mikey Inouye, a co-founder of Coronacare, told Liberation News:
“In March of 2020, several core members of what would become Coronacare looked at what was happening in China, anticipating the various failures of the American capitalist settler-state response to the COVID crisis; failures that have subsequently led to the deaths of more than half a million Americans. Although Hawai’i is home to many nonprofits and volunteer organizations doing great work, we felt that there was a deep need for an organization that could serve the community while also providing and being informed by a revolutionary political perspective that identifies the root causes that precede the current health crisis.”
About a month ago, they expanded their “Coronacare Packages” program by delivering food, water, and other essential supplies — like socks — to homeless neighbors in the Makiki area. They usually distribute 65 of these packages every week to build community and solidarity between the housed and unhoused members of their class.
On Feb. 28, they began distributing these packages but their efforts were stifled by two private security guards. Rachel Moore, co-founder of the organization, said that they first “discouraged us from continuing our houseless aid program. They then told us the homeless were unemployed due to personal choices and laziness, and that by supporting our unhoused neighbors, we were impeding their job of ‘clearing the trash from the streets.’”
They continued handing out their solidarity packages. That did not stop the security forces, but forced them to change their tactics. They began speaking to people in the encampment and warned them not to engage with the project in an effort to divide the housed from the unhoused. William Dou, a Coronacare member, told Liberation News that in the end, “We were able to clear up the misconceptions that one of our unhoused neighbors had regarding the role of the guards and the purpose they were serving.”
While it is not clear yet if the security teams just happened upon the distribution or were staking it out and waiting for them, the group is not backing down from this harassment.
When asked how they were responding to the threats and the potential of future acts of intimidation, Moore said, “We are responding by continuing to do the work, and by continuing to build and serve the community that the system fails on a daily basis.”
The attack against Coronacare is another manifestation of a growing trend of anti-homeless legislation, which includes “sit-lie” ordinances as well as outright bans on begging or panhandling. Moreover, 9 percent of American cities make it a crime to share food in public with homeless people.
We cannot fight these victories as isolated groups and win. We need to gather our forces, collectivize our experiences and knowledge to fight as a united class. As individuals, we are powerless against the state. But as a collective, we are powerful. That is why the security team wanted to divide the Coronacare activists from homeless neighbors with whom they were building solidarity. That is also why PSL members have consistently engaged in struggles against anti-homeless legislation. In Indianapolis, the PSL branch recently led a successful movement that defeated Prop. 291, which would have effectively criminalized distributing food to poor and working-class people — with and without shelter.
You can support Coronacare Hawai’i’s efforts by donating via Venmo to @coronacareHI