Maui nonprofit expected to meet $6.5M goal in 2 weeks

Sep. 17—Maui nonprofit Hawaii Community Lending is on track to meet its $6.5 million goal for the Kanaka Anti-Displacement Fund by the end of next week.

Maui nonprofit Hawaii Community Lending is on track to meet its $6.5 million goal for the Kanaka Anti-Displacement Fund by the end of next week.

The fundraising campaign was launched about two weeks ago, according to Executive Director Jeff Gilbreath.

The funds will go toward the first phase of a two-part campaign to help residents of Hawaiian ancestry impacted by the wildfires. The money will be used to maximize insurance claim payouts and disaster assistance funding, and to preserve access to the land, according to a news release.

"We had no idea the level of giving that would happen just within this first week, " said Gilbreath. "If we continue at this pace, probably by the end of next week we're going to be good to go. And then we can start raising for the second phase."

Hawaii Community Lending first began working with the Leali 'i Homestead community in 2007 when it helped the 102 families there obtain mortgages to secure their place on the land, according to the news release. Fifteen years later, Gilbreath said he feels it is the nonprofit's responsibility to ensure that those families may remain on that land through phase I of the Kanaka Anti-Displacement Fund.

"It's a capacity issue that we only can serve as many as we can serve, " Gilbreath said. "But we know that if we prioritize the Leali 'i families first, that we can do the work, we can do it well, we can do it right, and over time, hopefully we can raise the resources necessary to help the remaining Native Hawaiian homeowners who can access this."

The efforts had raised about $5.1 million by Thursday, Gilbreath said. Once the full $6.5 million is raised and the first phase of the project is complete, Gilbreath estimates the next phase will be to raise about $14 million to support the remaining 169 homeowners.

In addition to providing services to help homeowners navigate the resources available to them, the funds will also be used to provide loans to those who might be underinsured.

Currently, Gilbreath expects that the majority of people benefiting from the fundraiser have some level of fire and smoke damage in their homes, which could mean dangerous toxicity levels even if the home is still standing, he said. With insurance policies and systems being complicated even for professionals in the industry to understand, he said he believes that one of the biggest pieces of this service will lie in helping families navigate the resources available to them.

"What we found in working in response to lava, hurricanes and floods previously is that families can only be told no so many times before they just give up, " Gilbreath said. "Folks are in extreme trauma. ... So that whole role of technical assistance is really making sure that the family still has hope that we're getting as many resources as we can to them."

Gilbreath said that one of the main challenges Hawaii Community Lending has faced has been organizing the project while many of its staff deal with their own trauma caused by the wildfires. However, workers have embraced their trauma-informed training while Native Hawaiian community leaders have stepped up to guide the nonprofit toward areas in need of support, creating an organized and effective partnership, he said.

Full support and services offered through the Kanaka Anti-Displacement Fund will come via a community hub in Leali 'i that is scheduled to open on Sept. 25, Gilbreath said. He hopes that the efforts will lessen the number of Native Hawaiians displaced by the fires.

"Oftentimes in disasters, it is the folks who have been somewhere the longest that get displaced first, " Gilbreath said. "We wanted to do everything we could to mitigate that and this is our shot to do it."------Linsey Dower covers ethnic and cultural affairs and is a corps member of Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues and communities.------