Finding A Home Becomes A Matter Of Life And Health

The stress of living with uncertainty is beginning to take a toll on the Dadez family.

Photo: Bryan Berkowitz/Civil Beat/2023

Randy Dadez sweeps the beach sand out the door of the 14-seat tourist shuttle bus he drives at Kapalua Resort. Then he slinks into the driver’s seat and waits for his dispatcher to send him on another passenger run.

Tourism had resumed in West Maui in October, but business is a small fraction of what it was before most of Lahaina burned down.

Randy Dadez drives a tourist shuttle for a living at Kapalua Resort. (Brittany Lyte/Civil Beat/2023) Brittany Lyte/Civil Beat/2023

“Hey, James,” Randy calls out the open shuttle door. “If you find anybody who’s renting a place, please let me know.”

“Oh, boy. I’ll tell you, there’s a line,” replies his co-worker, who’s parked next to him in the holding lot. “The only rental I know of right now would be too small for your family. It’s only two rooms.”

“You know what, though, James?” Randy says. “We can’t be picky.”

“No, I understand that, but I mean really small. We’re talking about 500 square feet. Not even a real kitchen.”

There’s a faint crackle over the radio — instructions for Randy’s next pickup are in.

“You’ll find something. I promise you, it’ll come,” James calls out as Randy turns his key in the ignition. “You’ve just got to be a little bit patient, you know?”

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Randy returned to his $15-an-hour job as a Kapalua Resort shuttle driver eight weeks after the deadly Aug. 8 fires burned much of Lahaina and destroyed the home he’d been renting. Fire also took out another house the Dadez family had owned since 1938, a relic of the plantation era that he had long dreamed of updating.

At first, after the government-sanctioned reopening of West Maui to visitors kicked in, there were hardly any tourists for him to drive around the 22,000-acre resort, which includes The Ritz-Carlton, the Montage, golf courses, shops and restaurants. But within a few weeks, a steady stream of passengers were again depositing cash tips into his hand.

Occasionally a passenger would ask about the fire, and their jaw would tighten as Randy explained that although his house burned down he considered himself one of the lucky ones because he and his family had survived.

He spent most of his shifts thinking about his wife, Marilou, who had recently seen a doctor about her intensifying migraines. Since the fire, the attacks were daily. The medicine she’d taken for years to dull the pain no longer seemed to work.

The Dadez family's home on Hoapili Street, near Safeway in Lahaina, burned down in the Aug. 8 fire. (Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2023)
The Dadez family’s home on Hoapili Street, near Safeway in Lahaina, burned down in the Aug. 8 fire. (Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2023) Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2023

Now, Marilou is a candidate for migraine surgery. But first her doctor wants to try Botox injections, which he hopes would ease her symptoms enough to avoid having to cut open her head to release the pressure points around the nerve fibers.

Her doctor acknowledged that the stress of losing her home, of shuffling from hotel to hotel, of not knowing when or where her family would live next, could be making her symptoms worse, she says.

Finding a home is no longer just a desperate desire. For Marilou, it is now a matter of health.

Randy feels like it’s up to him to find the family a stable place to live.

“You know, I wanted to move to a different island or maybe even a different state, but my kids don’t want to, though,” Randy says.

Randy’s parents yanked him around when he was growing up. He was born near a U.S. military base 40 miles outside the heart of Manila in the Philippines. He was in fourth grade when his dad was reassigned to a base in San Antonio, Texas. A couple years later his family moved to Lahaina. He didn’t have a say in any of it.

“But I asked them. I’m different,” Randy says of his slightly more democratic approach to fatherhood. “I said, ‘If we have no choice, then we’re forced to move.’ But for now, we’re still looking. The thing is, everybody needs housing and there’s not enough here.”

‘Christmas Is Coming’

Recently, the Dadezes have started considering a move to the Philippines, where their family could live together in a proper house. Randy and Marilou were born there. And they both have relatives eager to help them adjust while they wait things out. They’d move back to Maui as soon as a more dignified housing opportunity presented itself.

But there are two big anchors keeping the family in place on Maui.

Randy and Marilou Dadez are struggling to regain a sense of stability since the Aug. 8 wildfire destroyed their rental home. On a recent Sunday morning they celebrated Marilou Dadez’s 42nd birthday in their FEMA-funded hotel room alongside their three daughters Rianna, 21, Heart, 19, and Samara, 12 and their 9-year-old son Kobe. Rianna’s boyfriend, 20-year-old Ramon Agdeppa, lives with the family and is seated far left. (Bryan Berkowitz/Civil Beat/2023) Bryan Berkowitz/Civil Beat/2023

With Marilou’s migraine attacks, it would be unwise to leave. In the Philippines, the family wouldn’t have health insurance.

The Dadezes also worry what an overseas move would mean for their 9-year-old son Kobe, who suffers from hearing loss and developmental delays.

Kobe attends a Kihei elementary school with a special program for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. He also receives in-home therapy. Would he be able to get the care he needs overseas?

Then, in late October, the Dadezes found some respite when federal disaster relief officials moved them into their third FEMA-funded shelter: A luxury three-bedroom condo north of Lahaina at the Honua Kai Resort.

The condo has a wraparound balcony with an ocean sunset view, multiple televisions and a lavish kitchen with two side-by-side ovens. There is ample marble countertop space to store the family’s donated food items — bottled water, Spam, 30-pound bags of rice, sweet and sour sauce, chicken breasts, a crate of persimmons.

For the first time since the fire, Marilou could cook for her family.

Marilou Dadez was thrilled to be able to cook meals for her family after her family moved into a luxury condominium, the family’s third FEMA-funded accommodation since the fire. The family has to move again on Nov. 30. (Bryan Berkowitz/Civil Beat/2023) Bryan Berkowitz/Civil Beat/2023

She celebrated her 42nd birthday with a dinner party at the condo, which is large enough to accommodate her brother and his family, who had also lost their home in the fire. For a few hours over take-out plates of chicken adobo and pork lumpia, things feel almost normal.

But soon a familiar dread creeps back in. The American Red Cross has put the family on notice: They will have to move out of the condo by Nov. 30. Marilou knows that chances are slim of being assigned a place with a kitchen again.

“Christmas is coming and we don’t know where we’re going to be next,” Marilou says.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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