In the wake of the devastating Maui wildfires that have left thousands without homes, Maui Health nurse Sarah Salmonese is praying she can find a way to stay on Maui.
Salmonese has been in healthcare for over 11 years and was Maui Memorial Medical Center’s first-ever DAISY Award honoree, an international award recognizing extraordinary nurses. She lost her home and all of her belongings in the Lahaina fire.
“I worked so hard to be able to purchase my first home by myself,” she said. “What keeps me up at night is the uncertainty… how long until I can rebuild, and can I afford to stay on Maui paying rent until then.”
Similarly, nurse Christina Pilapil worries about housing for her family of seven.
“We’ve moved from one hotel to another several times over the last few weeks,” she said. “We’re so thankful to have been provided a room, but moving over and over with my husband, 9-year-old daughter, three kupuna, and dog, has been incredibly hard. We’re looking for somewhere to call home for a little while.”
Salmonese and Pilapil are just two of the hundreds of healthcare heroes who have lost their homes and everything they own to the recent fires. They and many others are desperately seeking short- and long-term rentals; many of whom have multiple children and large extended families, and all who have been traumatized by the recent disaster.
All of these individuals have selflessly cared for our loved ones during some of the most challenging times and now find themselves in dire need of help. Maui Health is asking people to consider helping those who have given so much.
“Our dedicated healthcare workers are the unsung heroes of our community, putting their own lives on the line to protect ours, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marian Horikawa-Barth, Maui Health Chief Nurse Executive. “They need a place to call home to start rebuilding their lives.”
Together with Maui Health Foundation, Maui Health was able to place employees in short-term housing and provide monetary support immediately following the fires in early August. However, locating longer-term accommodations and lodging for larger families has been challenging. Maui Health is now reaching out to remind community members, local businesses, and other organizations of the significant and urgent need for housing on Maui.
Individuals and families who have vacant rental properties, guesthouses, or any suitable housing options, are asked to consider renting them to an individual or family in need. Sign ups are available with the Hawaiʻi Housing Finance & Development Corporation’s Hawaiʻi Fire Relief Housing Program, which the state operates. For questions or more information, email email@example.com or call 808-587-0469.
If you want to put your rental on a list specifically for healthcare workers, please contact Gabriel Bolivar at 808-442-5772 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It is no secret that we are facing a shortage of healthcare workers, with access to affordable housing in Hawaii one of our biggest recruitment challenges,” said Horikawa-Barth. “We would hate for our amazing local healthcare professionals who lost everything to the fires to have to consider moving to the mainland because they can’t find housing. As a united community, we can show them we are here for them, just as they have always been here for us.”
Despite the challenges, Salmonese and Pilapil are hopeful and grateful.
Salmonese is thankful for how quickly the community came together to support each other. She is also grateful to be alive and says her calling to serve others may have saved her life.
“I went into healthcare to help my community, and as it turned out, I was right where I was supposed to be the night of the fires – working in the ER. So, while I’m devastated, I am also grateful for many things,” she said.
A silver lining for Pilapil is spending more quality time with her family.
“This experience has made us stronger and brought us closer to God,” she said. “To anyone else out there suffering, don’t give up. Have faith in God.”
For more information on donating or offering housing to a healthcare worker in need, visit mauihealth.org/wildfire.