2014 has been a hard year for Puna families. In addition to the usual challenges of poverty, isolation, and transportation, Hurricane Iselle came ashore over Puna early in the morning of August 9th, felling trees, closing roads, and forcing many in Puna to live without power for days or weeks.
Many of the families Neighborhood Place of Puna serve live in substandard housing: simple shacks, converted vehicles, under tarps, or in unpermitted homes. It is the most affordable housing available for families with very limited incomes. However, it is these families who were most impacted by Hurricane Iselle but could not qualify for even the most basic of disaster recovery assistance.
Joseph and his wife have two children. Mom is pregnant with a third. Before Iselle they were living in a few small sheds on a partially cleared lot in a rural Puna subdivision. As Hurricane Iselle approached, they packed up their belongings and took shelter in a neighbor’s house. After the storm passed, they returned to their property and found their shelter blown apart and their belongings scattered throughout the surrounding jungle.
They had lost everything. However, with mom about to give birth, NPP set out to help the family replace beds and bedding for the children and find lumber and roofing materials to rebuild their shack, outhouse, and shower.
With a fortuitously donated propane stove and sink, Neighborhood Place of Puna was able to help the family create a small covered cooking area. We also provided some plastic bins to help Joseph’s family keep their food dry as well as insect and rodent free.
It is not a perfect housing situation. It is small and primitive, but also clean and dry. It is affordable. They have a place to cook food, a simple rain catchment system for bathing and washing needs, and containers to collect county water for cooking and drinking. The two school age children are in school and the family continues to meet with NPP staff on a weekly basis.
Joseph’s family is only one of the 112 families that NPP helped between July and November of this year. Like Joseph, most of the parents are good people who are in crisis. Many lack basic parenting skills and are struggling with persistent poverty. They are likely on the verge of homelessness, or their utilities have been shut off, or their child is acting out, or there are health issues, or some other crisis exists that the family cannot handle themselves.
Often, Neighborhood Place of Puna is the only program that families can turn to when things begin to get out of control. Neighborhood Place of Puna helps these families recognize and develop their strengths. Our outreach workers meet weekly with families in their homes, over a period of several months, connecting the family to available resources, providing encouragement and support, and helping the parents understand their children’s developmental stages.
Neighborhood Place of Puna outreach workers must often teach and model fundamental life skills that the parents never learned as children and young adults, simple things like: basic hygiene, money management and budgeting, effective communication, age-appropriate discipline, and the importance of a structured family life. Our goal is to help families raise safe and healthy children.
Neighborhood Place of Puna helps in other ways as well. We provide support services for pregnant and parenting teens. We also maintain a food pantry that provides thousands of pounds of emergency food assistance to individuals and families struggling with food insecurity.
Because Puna is our community, Neighborhood Place of Puna has taken on the task of helping the victims of Hurricane Iselle get assistance: Everything from tree removal and home repair to relocation assistance.
Additionally, Neighborhood Place of Puna is helping families and individuals who are being impacted by the active lava flow.
None of this would be possible without your support.
Once again, we are asking you to help support our East Hawaii families with a financial donation to Neighborhood Place of Puna. No matter the amount, your generosity and your donation, large or small, make a big difference to our Puna and East Hawaii families.
You can make your one-time donation by clicking on the Donation button on the right side of the page.
You can also help our families by making a recurring monthly donation. Just choose your monthly support level and click the Subscribe button on the right side of the page.
Paul Normann, Executive Director
John Briski, Cyd Hoffeld, Darissa Kekuawela, Suzanne Mayhew, The Neighborhood Place of Puna Board of Directors