Sunday, November 4, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Residents desperate
for financial relief
as holidays approach

Families struggle to survive as their
financial burdens continue to grow

By Nelson Daranciang

After two years as a front-desk clerk for Aston Hotels in Waikiki, Stephanie Rae went from full-time to on-call last Monday.

On Friday she waited three hours to get her unemployment application processed at the state Labor Department.

"I have to start looking. But I know I'm not going to find a job and start from the beginning and make the money that I was making at the hotel, there's just no way. But I am just being hopeful and positive that the hotel will pick up."

Rae would like to take advantage of whatever help the state has to offer, including the emergency financial housing assistance approved by state lawmakers Friday.

However, the state has not determined who will be eligible for a share of the $1 million appropriation.

Homeless shelters, meanwhile, were already full before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and resulting economic downturn, and there are waiting lists to get in, said Julie Keim, social service director of Homeless Solutions Inc. The nonprofit organization operates transitional shelters for families and single people on Oahu.

Keim said many people affected by the economic downturn will survive through the holidays with help from family, but will run out of resources by the end of the year.

Rae said she has no savings or family to fall back on to pay her rent and other bills while she is out of work.

"I do have family here but everyone basically is taking care of themselves. We have each other's love for support, but love is not going to pay the bills," she said.

This is a new experience for her. She had been laid off before from a previous job but that was part-time seasonal work, and she was married at the time.

"Now I'm by myself, I have to support myself, support my children, it's harder. And rent is way higher than it used to be. Doing things alone is not easy."

Rae pays child support to her ex-husband, with whom she shares custody of their three children. She is hoping to get her payments reduced.

Others who might want to take advantage of the state's housing assistance include hundreds of Hawaii residents who are expected to be dropped off the welfare rolls by the end of the year.

None of the families in the Homeless Solutions shelters is losing welfare assistance, Keim said. There were five single people who saw their part-time hours reduced by their employers, she said, but the shelter operator reduced their already modest rent to meet their ability to pay.

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