The Shortest Way Home

Matt Jachowski puts his algorithmic skills to work on behalf of Maui residents displaced by fire.

May 2024

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Maui coastline with burned land and trees

Photo: AP provides access to this publicly distributed handout photo provided by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

After a devastating fire killed 100 people and destroyed the West Maui town of Lahaina in Hawaii last August, Maui residents Matt Jachowski, ’07, MS ’08, and his wife, Veronica Mendoza Jachowski, offered their second home to a displaced family with three young children, and moved a cousin into their son’s bedroom so an older couple could live in their property’s accessory dwelling unit. (Their son shared a bed with Veronica; Jachowski himself slept in a hammock for three months.) “We were compressed for a while,” he says, laughing. 

But Jachowski—who had previously worked in algorithmic trading—did more than give up his bed. His sister, Holly Badr-El-Din, ’15, his mom, Maile Apau Jachowski, ’81, MD ’87, and Veronica were all assisting survivors, and when it became clear that housing needs far surpassed supply, Jachowski put his computer science skills to work. In October, he launched the website Maui Hale Match, a platform that helps connect people looking for housing with potential landlords (hale means house in Hawaiian). Within a week, hundreds of requests had been submitted, and Jachowski found he had something no one else had: comprehensive data on what survivors needed, how much they could afford to pay, and where they hoped to live. 

‘The people who are going to do this out of the goodness of their hearts already have. We need to face the reality of how much [homeowners] are making.’

Jachowski—who by then had been recruited to help fire relief efforts at the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement—began sharing that data with anyone who would listen, including nonprofits and county, state, and federal officials. He quickly discovered that in order to meet the needs of the town’s remaining displaced people, assistance programs would have to incentivize owners who had lucrative—but vacant—short-term rentals and second homes. His organization is collaborating with the state, Maui County, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Hawaii Community Foundation, and the American Red Cross on programs to guarantee rent payments, provide financial support to those who are hosting survivors, and build temporary housing units. 

Portrait of Matt JachowskiPhoto: Matt Jachowski

“The people who are going to do this out of the goodness of their hearts already have,” he explains. “If we are going to convert more housing, we need to face the economic reality of how much money [homeowners] are making.” 

Jachowski calls himself an “accidental expert” in housing and says he wants to continue to use his skills to benefit the community. “This whole experience has fed my soul in a way that my previous work didn’t.” 

Rebecca Beyer is a Boston-area journalist. Email her at

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