The fires in Maui caused upwards of $6 billion in damage and destroyed more than 2,000 structures.
Yet a disproportionately low number of Native Hawaiians have reached out for federal assistance, according to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.
“We have got to break down the barriers,” said Kuhio Lewis, the Council’s chief executive officer to Civil Beat. “A lot are not applying for federal and Red Cross assistance. There’s trust issues.”
That’s why on Monday, the Council opened up a resource center to offer assistance. Kako’o Maui Resource Hub will be run by Lahaina resident Kukui Keahi who lost her home and her job in the fire. Her staff is made up of mostly fire victims.
She too recognizes that Native Hawaiians have not requested help.
“Not a lot, not a lot,” she said. “There is a fear of the unknown and rumors are carrying around.”
Keahi said some worry that if they take federal dollars, their homes will be taken from them. Others are concerned their property will be deemed too toxic and that they will be ordered to leave. Historically, land owned by Hawaiians has been taken from them by both the federal and state governments.
To counter those rumors, the Resource Hub will offer culturally sensitive services to fire victims, reports Maui Now.
“We want to reduce the administrative burden as well as help with any hesitation they may have in working directly with government agencies. Our hope is for the resource hub to provide a one-stop-shop for our Maui ʻohana to get the aid and services they need in a streamlined and supportive fashion,” said Lewis.
Services offered will include food and financial assistance, health insurance, grief counseling, funeral support, insurance and loss mitigation, legal counseling, housing counseling and foreclosure prevention.
Numerous non-profits will also be at the Hub along with FEMA and the Small Business Administration.
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