Homeowners who take in wildfire evacuees could get $1,500 a month under new program

Under the pilot, homeowners can get $375 per person they assist — up to $1,500.
Published: Oct. 3, 2023 at 6:31 AM HST|Updated: Oct. 3, 2023 at 4:03 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui County in partnership with several private organizations is launching a new program that will compensate “host families” who take in wildfire evacuees.

Under the pilot, homeowners can get $375 per person they assist — up to $1,500.

Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said the $4 million program is funded for six months through the American Red Cross, Hawaii Community Foundation and the Council on Native Hawaiian Advancement.

If the program is successful, it will be extended.

“I think the no. 1 thing it does is it keeps people with family and friends,” Bissen said. “But this program can be used by anyone.”

He added the program is open to those currently housing evacuees or those interested in taking in people. Applications will open at noon Tuesday, and host families can apply by clicking here.

People can also apply in person at CNHA’s Kakoo Maui Resource Hub.

Some 7,000 evacuees are being assisted with housing, primarily in hotels and vacation rentals.

Dustin Kaleiopu and his entire family are among those who were displaced.

About 20 of them stayed with a family member in the beginning. Most of them have since found other places to stay, but three are still there.

He was hired by CNHA to help run the Kakoo Maui Resource Hub to help people just like him.

“The people who come through the door ... I see them, I hear them telling their stories, what it’s like to live with another family, the burden of them knowing they can’t afford to pay rent,” he said.

Sheila Sarhangi, spokesperson for Hawaii Community Foundation, said the program is modeled after a “people helping Hawaii people” mantra.

“We all know that when a friend or a family rallies around us, it can make the hurt a little better, and it can make the healing more of a reality,” she said.

Officials said the program can be used by anyone — not just families in Maui County.

Officials emphasize these are homes that already exist - inventory is already here. So families don’t have to wait for something to be built or something to open up.

If you want to apply, go to hawaiiancouncil.org/HostFamily.

Or you can go in-person to Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s Kakoo Maui Resource Hub here at Maui Mall in Kahului.

Applicants can also contact CNHA at (808) 596-8155.