KIHEI – Small-business operators have rallied to help an 81-year-old Kihei man, a "very likable, sweet guy" living on Social Security and a modest pension, whose condominium was mired in garbage and filth, said Mark Hoenig, owner of a Maui property damage and restoration company.
A Jan. 17 call from a Kihei condominium resident manager about a job to clear out the man's unit led to a monthlong effort and "an amazing response from the local business community and individuals who contributed time, materials, labour and money to help out this guy," Hoenig said.
A unit above the man's apartment had water damage from a leak under a kitchen sink, he said, and the resident manager went to check to see if the water had gone down to the lower unit.
What the condo manager saw there prompted him to call the state Department of Health, and state officials said the unit needed to be cleaned, or risk condemnation, because it posed a health hazard. The manager then called PuroClean Emergency Restoration Services, which has been in business for five years and handles water, mould, fire and biohazard damage. Hoenig said the 750-square-foot, two-bedroom condo reeked.
"The first thing that hits you is the horrendously bad smell," he said. "Bags of garbage piled in the kitchen . . . Hundreds of plastic and paper shopping bags covering the floor . . . Stacks of mail dated back years, most of it unopened.
"There was a thick network of spider webs hanging down from the ceiling," said Hoenig, who stands 6-foot-1 and needed to stoop to avoid his head getting tangled with webs. Cockroaches and ants were "all over the place," amid rodent droppings.
And, "most disturbing," workers found "two waist-high piles of used adult diapers," which were the source of the most foul odours coming from the condominium, he said.
PuroClean workers filled two commercial Dumpsters, just with the adult diapers, Hoenig said.
The man, whose identity Hoenig declined to disclose to avoid public humiliation, had endured prostate cancer surgery and suffered from other physical problems that affected his mobility. The man, a retired private pilot who has "traveled all over the world," has lived on Maui more than 20 years, Hoenig said.
After seeing the shocking condition of the condo, Hoenig said he expected that the resident was someone "not quite all there." But the man is articulate and capable of carrying on a normal conversation.
Hoenig said he does not believe that the man is a hoarder because he had no problem with workers hauling trash out of his unit, although he did want to keep personal mementos and belongings. In trying to explain how the unit became so filthy, Hoenig said he concluded that the man simply procrastinated until the job of cleaning his condo "became overwhelming."
"He let it accumulate. He didn't address the issue," he said. Then, when the garbage buildup got out of hand, the man "didn't know where to start."
Hoenig said the condominium association initially agreed to pay upfront for PuroClean's services and then would bill the man an interest-free amount he could pay each month through his maintenance fees. But, recently, Hoenig said PuroClean would discount its bill of approximately $5,000 and charge the man a discounted fee of $1,300, which he can pay himself.
The first major cleanup effort began Jan. 25 and took two workers and Hoenig's wife, Tina, a day and a half, he said. Overall, workers filled six commercial Dumpsters with trash and other material.
Hoenig said his wife became an intermediary with the condo owner. "She developed a rapport with him," he said.
As the job progressed, it became clear that work on the man's unit would require not just a cleanup, but renovations and repairs as well.
The unit's carpet and pads were not salvageable and needed to be taken out, leaving the unit's floor "down to bare cement," Hoenig said. The man's water heater had not worked since Thanksgiving. The kitchen sink didn't drain properly. The sink's faucet was stuck in place. The refrigerator was leaking water, and there was mould damage in the bathroom and hallways.
Michelle Richards, a warranty manager with D.R. Horton Builders, contacted contractors and solicited help from Dorvin Leis Co., a Kahului-based mechanical contractor, and Ceramic Tile Plus, which donated tile for flooring in the man's kitchen and bathrooms.
Hoenig said the response from Maui businesses was amazing.
"We were actually quite surprised," Hoenig said. "Very quickly," offers began coming in to donate materials, labour and money to help the man.
The Leis Co. donated a new water heater, garbage disposal, faucets and toilets for the unit's two bathrooms, he said. A technician from the Leis Co. installed the water heater, toilets and garbage disposal.
The new water heater "was huge" for the man, Hoenig said. "It was the first time he's had hot water in several months." When he was asked what it was like to take a hot shower again, the man said, "It was delicious."
Tina Hoenig installed the ceramic tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms. D.R. Horton Builders provided vanity cabinets, paint and other materials free of charge. Other donations included a used sofa, a bed and a microwave oven.
Richards also worked at the condo unit, helping with the installation of tile, painting and other miscellaneous cleanup.
Tina Hoenig coordinated the work and donated materials and labour, Mark Hoenig said. She personally worked more than 80 hours on the project, doing drywall work, replacing vanity cabinets and installing flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms.
The bathtub was "horribly stained," and she scrubbed until it "looks like a regular bathtub," he said.
A new carpet and padding was also to be installed. Overall, it took about a month to complete the project, he said.
He estimated that overall donated labour of more than 150 hours and materials amounted to around $20,000.
Hoenig said the Maui County Office on Aging has assigned a case worker to help the man, who will need help with ongoing housekeeping.
"Throughout the whole process, he's been very, very cooperative," Hoenig said. "He's extremely grateful . . . To say it's life-changing. Certainly, it is not an exaggeration."
He said the man is amazed at "how much individuals and the community care about him . . . and are willing to step in and turn his life around."
Hoenig said the man will need some counseling, "so he can understand how he got into that situation and avoid that in the future."