Nearly six months after the Lahaina fire, 5290 survivors remain in hotels – Maui Now

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The American Red Cross provided an update on response and recovery as wildfire survivors continue to transition from Non-Congregate Sheltering at hotels to more stable housing.

As of Friday, Jan. 26, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported that 5,290 people remained housed in 28 hotels as part of the program.

In an effort to find more suitable housing, FEMA and the Red Cross are working with the state to transition impacted residents to longer term housing on Maui and Oʻahu.

In his recent State of the State Address, Gov. Josh Green, M.D. said, “The goal is to move all displaced Maui families from short-term hotels into long-term housing by July 1, with most households moving in by March 1.”

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He said he will be forced to declare a moratorium on all short-term rentals in West Maui if he is unable to find enough housing for displaced families by March 1, 2024.  He also said he would sign into law any legislation that will help move short-term rentals and vacant investment properties owned by non-residents into the local housing market as part of his Housing Hawaiʻi’s ʻOhana plan.

Earlier this month, Gov. Green joined Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen and nonprofit partners in announcing a $500 million Interim Housing Plan for Maui. The plan includes: residents returning to original unharmed residences, the Host Housing Support Program, direct leasing, short-term rental transitions to long-term rentals, and new permanent developments.

The Red Cross reports that sheltering team members are poised to work with client households in their transition as residential zones are deemed habitable by government agencies.

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“Affected households will have seven days to exit their temporary emergency shelter and return home,” according to the Red Cross, noting that the organization does not designate homes habitable or uninhabitable. “We communicate decisions made by trusted government partners.”

Since nearly six months have passed since the August wildfires, the Red Cross reports that the temporary emergency Non-Congregate Sheltering program is no longer accepting new entrants. Any new requests will be referred to community partners. 

The Red Cross advises eligible client households already in the program to accept the housing solution offered through FEMA or the Red Cross when provided. “Deferring a housing solution does not guarantee a better option in the future. Red Cross Shelter Resident Transition Specialists will meet with clients in person to discuss available housing solutions and moving plans,” according to an update provided by the organization.

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The organization notes that making the transition from temporary emergency shelter to intermediate housing solutions can bring on mixed emotions.

  • To get emotional help, those in need can call the Malu i ka ‘ulu warm line: 808-446-6676, a local Maui number that can connect clients with resources here on Maui. This line is available daily from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.
  • There is also 1-800-HI Cares (1-800-753-6879) line available 24/7 to connect residents to local resources. For immediate in-person support, the Lahaina Comprehensive Health Center accepts walk-ins 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

As a member of the humanitarian efforts in Maui County, the Red Cross was on island prior to the August disaster. Leaders say the organization “will continue to be part of the whole community response and long-term recovery program.” 

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