Shelters reach out to homeless ahead of storm threat

Shelters reach out to homeless ahead of storm threat 6PM Update
Shelters reach out to homeless ahead of storm threat
Shelters reach out to homeless ahead of storm threat
Shelters reach out to homeless ahead of storm threat
Shelters reach out to homeless ahead of storm threat

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Officials estimate there are more than 3,000 unsheltered homeless statewide,  with approximately 1,600 living on O'ahu alone. They're among the most vulnerable when severe weather hits.

Outreach workers with the Institute for Human Services (IHS), which runs one of the biggest shelters on O'ahu, spent Tuesday canvassing the area underneath the Nimitz viaduct to notify the homeless living there about the double threat heading their way -- Hurricane Iselle and Tropical Storm Julio.

"Try to remind everybody the flood possibility on Thursday night and Friday morning and try to encourage folks if they want to come into the shelter that we have openings, okay?" said IHS outreach specialist Justin Phillips, briefing his team before they set out to distribute fliers with emergency shelter information.

An estimated 100 homeless people are believed to be living under the Nimitz viaduct.

"Today folks were pretty welcoming. Most of the time when we come down here the response is totally different. The response is, 'We don't want to go to IHS,' but the hurricane is prompting folks to listen to what we have to say and take us seriously and maybe think a little bit in advance about the seriousness of the flooding in this particular area where we're at," said Phillips.

Officials say it's a problematic area because of its proximity to a river and the multiple storm drains that pass under the overpass.

IHS outreach specialists hope at least 10% of the people they speak to will head to higher ground, but they say the folks living here are notoriously hard to move.

"I think that's a question the hurricane is going to answer for us. In other words -- how serious the hurricane is and how bad the flooding is -- that will potentially push folks out. What's sad is that people will probably most likely wait until the last minute to get help, which is sad because we're offering it in advance," Phillips said.

A few people indicated they didn't plan to take any chances.

"Oh heck no! Common sense tells me get your butt into a shelter and don't mess with Mother Nature, period. Those who want to hack it out here are only asking for one big trouble and the trouble is this -- the rescue people got to go out there, find them, locate them and put their lives at stake," said Reagan, who has been living under the Nimitz viaduct for a while.

Others said they would likely wait until the rain really starts coming down.

"Definitely, definitely. It gets dangerous out here. You gotta worry about dying in the flood. The water rising, where you can't get out. You can get trapped inside," said Danielle.

A few said they weren't worried at all.

"Storm warnings happened before and nothing happened so we'll probably stay here like we did last time," said Roberta.

IHS officials confirm they have available shelter space right now for individuals who don't want to wait until emergency shelters open. They're also encouraging the homeless to contact family or friends to see if they can temporarily stay with them until the storm passes.

City and county officials are expected to announce Wednesday when and where emergency shelters will be opening. Once they're up and running, the city buses will pickup whomever wants to go to a shelter and take them there for free.

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