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[Maui News] Nonprofit launches fund that aims to prevent displacement of Native Hawaiians after fires

Hawai’i Community Lending launched a fund on Tuesday that aims to prevent the displacement of kanaka maoli from Maui after the tragic wildfire that destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in Lahaina and killed at least 115 people.

The goal of the Kanaka Anti-Displacement Fund is to assist up to 271 kanaka in preserving their stewardship and access to aina on Maui over the next five years, according to a news release. The objective is to ensure that homeowners impacted by the Maui fires maximize their insurance claim payouts and disaster assistance funding. They will also have access to experts to create emergency budgets, apply for financial assistance, obtain mortgage forbearances and file insurance claims or appeal denials.

“This fund emerges in response to the urgent need to support the Native Hawaiian population in the wake of the Maui fires, which uprooted 271 kanaka homeowners from their lands in Lahaina,” said Jeff Gilbreath, executive director of Hawai’i Community Lending. “We must safeguard our kanaka community and ensure they can remain rooted in their homeland.”

The fund’s Phase 1 objective is to first support the 102 ohana in the Leaiali’i Homestead, whom Hawai’i Community Lending helped to get their mortgages and secure their place on the land in 2007. The nonprofit will raise $6.5 million over the next six months to provide loans to Leali’i homesteaders to help them retain Sentinel Pacific, a Native Hawaiian public insurance adjuster, to file insurance claims and advocate on their behalf. The average homeowner loan will be $50,000, up to 5 percent interest and repaid from insurance claim monies or other loans.

After Phase I, the fund’s focus will extend to the remaining 169 kanaka homeowners who have been similarly impacted by the fires, with the intention of offering them the same level of support and resources, according to the news release.

Both investments and donations are being sought from community members, institutions, funders and investors. Hawai’i Community Lending has already raised $680,100, with funding including $250,000 from the Omidyar ‘Ohana Fund at the Hawai’i Community Foundation, $250,000 from Oweesta, $30,000 from the Kataly Foundation and $100 from Jeannine McCune.

The Kanaka Anti-Displacement Fund is included in the first phase of the two-part Maui Response and Recovery Strategy, launched by Hawai’i Community Lending and its parent nonprofit, Hawaiian Community Assets, on Aug. 28. The strategy prioritizes increasing public awareness of and access to homeowner insurance, disaster assistance and grants and loans for recovery and rebuilding.

“We know the work ahead can seem overwhelming to families who have lost everything,” Gilbreath said. “But we are here to stand with our kanaka maoli, to bring them hope and navigate to get the resources they need to rebuild their homes and return to their land. That is the goal of the Kanaka Anti-Displacement Fund; that is why we are here.”

The two organizations are running a public service announcement radio campaign and are also doubling their on-island teams and working with partners to help households navigate the filing of insurance claims, applying for disaster recovery funding, stopping foreclosure and requesting mortgage forbearances. They are working out of community hub offices in West Maui and at the Kako’o Maui Resource Hub at the Maui Mall. See full article at Maui News

Hawai‘i Community Lending
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