Maui grandmother sacrifices finances to take over care of 3 of her grandchildren

Resident Story Honolulu Hawaii EAH HousingKahului, Hawaiʻi, May 2019 – A few years ago, Cheyenne, a Honolulu native and single mother now living on Maui, took over care of three of her six grandchildren. Their mother, the youngest of Cheyenne’s two daughters, was unable to care for the children, a boy now 11, and two girls, now 5 and 2.

To make it possible to become their caregiver, Cheyenne, 56, drastically cut back her work hours as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). But between her smaller paycheck and her roommate moving out, she could no longer afford her apartment. She needed a home for herself and her grandchildren that would fit her new budget.

Fortunately, in July 2017, Cheyenne was offered an affordable three-bedroom apartment at Kahului Town Terrace, an EAH Housing community in Kahului, Maui’s largest city. “They had a full washer and dryer; I was in tears when I first saw it,” she says.

The need for more affordable housing on Maui is clear to Cheyenne. She regularly sees families living in their cars at the parking lot of a nearby McDonald’s. When she sees children there, she brings them food from her own kitchen. “It breaks my heart,” she says. “They could be my grandchildren.”

Cheyenne considers herself fortunate. “Without this apartment, that’s where we could be, homeless and living in my car in the McDonald’s parking lot,” she says.

When she’s working, Cheyenne hires a babysitter to look after her 2-year-old grand-daughter. Her 5-year-old grand-daughter plays soccer and attends a preschool housed at Kahului’s 108-year-old Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. Meanwhile, her eldest grandchild, a 5th grade boy, is a Cub Scout and a junior police officer at his elementary school, where he was just named junior police officer of the year.

It’s a complicated life. But with help, Cheyenne makes it work. “My sisters, my mom, my friends, my extended family and my church — New Hope Kahului — have really helped us through this whole ordeal,” she says.

An older couple affiliated with the local branch of Catholic Charities has also taken Cheyenne and her grandchildren under their wings. “We’re just so blessed now with them in our lives,” says Cheyenne. “They always send packages to the kids.”

Cheyenne also appreciates the help she receives through her Native Hawaiian ancestry, for child care and for her grandson’s future 6th grade enrollment at Kamehameha Middle School Maui.

Employed the past 12 years at Hale Makua, a skilled nursing facility, Cheyenne is pleased with her new living situation. “It was perfect timing, and affordable for us,” she says. “We still struggle sometimes. But we’re together. What really matters is my grandkids are secure, they’re being fed and I don’t have to worry about them. And this apartment, I just love it.”

She is grateful for what Kahului Town Terrace offers her and her family. “If you have a problem they just take care of things; they take care of you,” she says. “It’s an awesome place to live.”