Puna nonprofit contracted to help those recovering from 2018 eruption with still unmet needs

  • Paul Normann
  • USGS photo Fissure 8 feeds a voluminous lava channel to the ocean in June 2018.

Neighborhood Place of Puna was awarded a case management contract to help individuals and families recovering from the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano address still unmet needs.

Nearly 14 square miles of land was inundated with lava during the months-long eruption, which began in May 2018. The eruption destroyed more than 700 structures and homes in lower Puna and displaced 3,000 residents.

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According to information on the county’s Kilauea recovery website, a full-time coordinator and as many as six full-time case managers will be hired.

The case managers will be responsible for verifying unmet needs, advocating for resources, educating individuals and families “and supporting them in taking ownership of their recovery.”

Once eligibility and needs are determined, eruption survivors will work with case managers to develop individualized recovery plans.

The $873,613 contract is funded by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

NPP has been “pretty involved” in recovery efforts since the eruption started, said Paul Normann, executive director of the Keaau-based nonprofit.

“We were there at the initial resource center, and our primary path since that time has been collecting requests for assistance and connecting those requests with local resources — nonprofit resources, primarily,” Normann said.

The FEMA grant is a way to continue that work, “but at a deeper level,” he added.

Case management services will be available to individuals and families whose primary residence or place of employment were in the impacted area and who have a disaster-caused unmet need, which can include housing, that has not been addressed through other assistance.

Sharon Hirota, an executive assistant to Mayor Harry Kim, said there are close to 140 families that still have unmet needs.

Local nonprofits have “really stepped up” and were doing temporary case management services, Hirota said, but the grant will allow families to work with someone whose primary duties will be to assist them in finding the resources they need.

According to Normann, NPP is “staffing up right now” and likely won’t be in full gear until mid-October.

But those interested in the case management services can call NPP at 965-5550 now.

Normann said NPP also will contact people it spoke to in the past 18 months to check in and “see if there’s anything they still need.”

NPP “can’t promise them anything,” he said. “All we can do is work with them to try to create a plan to get them to a place where they’re sustainable post-eruption.”

Normann said work will continue until at least May, the second anniversary of the eruption, but hopefully longer. It’s important for those interested to get in touch sooner rather than later.

According to its website, NPP is a nonprofit organization that provides support and services to families at risk for child abuse and neglect.

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“Our offices are in Puna,” Normann said. “We’re in Keaau now. Many of us live in Puna. This is our community. This is what we lived through. … This is our community we are working to help recover and hopefully come out much stronger.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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