LIHUE – It’s been months since historic flooding wreaked havoc on Kauai, but the impact of the flood-waters is still being felt by those living in the hardest hit communities on the island.
For those in need, there’s still help available.
Rocio Maldanado and Nicholas Wright, disaster case managers from Catholic Charities USA out of Charleston, South Carolina, spent two weeks island assessing the needs of victims from the North Shore to the South Shore.
The most important thing the world needs to know is that recovery is still going on, Maldanado said.
“A lot of people think of a disaster is what happens immediately after, but months later, years later, a lot of these people are still trying to recover. A lot of them don’t get helped right away,” she said.
During their time here, they helped about 70 applicants apply for assistance, but just because they are no longer on Kauai, doesn’t mean it’s too late for residents to get help from the charity.
Currently, the biggest need the two have seen from applicants is housing, she said.
“Whether they’re working to rebuild their own house or to repair it, or whether they’re looking into moving into a brand new place all together; that’s the main thing,” Maldanado said.
Aside from housing is the need for vehicles. Many residents lost their vehicles during the flood, which also resulted in the loss of employment.
“Especially the ones that live up in the North Shore, Wainiha, Haena — a lot of people lost employment especially because of the conflict with the convoy. That and the fact that they just lost all the vehicles to their flood,” she said.
Over half of the applicants lost their cars and currently have no reliable transportation, Maldanado said.
“They lost equipment. A lot of people were self-employed or worked off their land, were farmers. The flood just wiped everything out and what they would use as an income,” she said.
Aside from losing homes, vehicles and other items, Wright said many in the community are dealing with other residual effects of the flood like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“Just fatigue, mental fatigue because you know if you lost you’re home, you’re homeless, trying to figure out couch hopping and a lot of people don’t want to go back to the land that they’re living on before because every time it rains they get flashbacks of what happened originally when the floods occurred,” Wright said.
He continued: “We want to let them know that we see them. We see them for who they are and where they are and we accept them.”
While on Kauai, the case managers said they’ve have been doing the initial outreach. Immediate assistance won’t start until everyone’s paperwork is turned in.
“A lot of people can’t get assistance because they’re missing paperwork, so it’s very important for people to turn their things in, their verification documents. Once we have all that, we’re ready to give it our all, work on your case, give you any resources you may want, but without that, we can’t do (much),” Maldanado said.
In the meantime, they have been able to help out a little bit.
“For people who have been walking in, what we do have is some gift cards that we’ve been handing out to people. Mainly its Foodland, it’s like a $50 gift card for an individual, or a $100 gift card for families,” Wright said.
A lot of people are thankful to receive those gift cards, he said.
“Even if we’re able to lessen the load just by a little bit, helping someone buy groceries,” Wright said.
Catholic Charities also has gas cards available for those who still have their vehicles, he said.
As far as housing goes, Maldanado said there’s a possibility they can help with rental assistance.
“But then again, that’s not something they got in the last two weeks. That’s something they’ll get later on in their case management process, once we do complete their files and have their paperwork,” she said.
Finding housing for flood victims has proven difficult with the already tight housing market is making it difficult for those who lost their homes in the flood to find new rentals, Wright said.
“Even the people who turned in all their paper work or are very good, very diligent, they aren’t able to find housing, even a rental, something that would be in their means and then add in the fact that they lost their income, their transportation, so even if they have all of that, finding a new place is really difficult,” he said.
Though Madanado and Wright are no longer on Kauai, residents impacted by April’s flood can still apply for help through Catholic Charities, by calling the Kauai office at 241-4673.
Since the beginning of flood relief efforts, Catholic Charities has received a $200,000 grant from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a $252,000 grant from Hawaii Community Foundation and $120,000 from Catholic Charities USA and donations from the public.