Amid ongoing eruptions, Big Island faces a daunting new problem: A housing crisis

PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lawmakers are scrambling to find a solution to the housing crisis in Puna bought on by ongoing eruptions that have already destroyed 27 homes.

It's been a week since mandatory evacuations were issued in the region, forcing more than 2,000 people from their homes in Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens.

About 300 evacuees are staying in two emergency shelters, while hundreds more are staying with friends and family.

One of the shelters, at Pahoa High, does have showers. But down the road, the shelter in Keaau doesn't — so evacuees are actually being bused to Pahoa and other locations just so they can take a hot shower.

The concern among legislators, who toured lava-impacted areas Thursday, is twofold: The eruptions show no signs of stopping and could continue for weeks or months. And the threat of more outbreaks means more subdivisions could be evacuated.

Some 50,000 people live in the east rift zone from Pahala to the ocean off Kapoho.

State Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, who represents Puna, said families who have been evacuated are already experiencing trauma.

"You could see these people ... are not used to being homeless," he said. "It's traumatic."

State Rep. Sylvia Luke, chair of the House Finance Commission, said she'd like to see a temporary housing situation that officers evacuees showers and restrooms.

Meanwhile, people living in the shelters and camping out in the surrounding grounds say they're doing the best they can with what little they have.

"It's kind of challenging living with a bunch of people and dogs. Everybody is on edge," one evacuee said.

Another evacuee added, "I's been very humbling, but we've had to adapt, trying to make the best of the situation. It's not easy."

Lawmakers also spoke to state and county officials about providing temporary access to homes that are now safe and the possibility of a special legislative session to discuss funding for the disaster.

"If that's what we need to do to help the residents of the Big Island then we all stand ready to assist," said Senate President Ron Kouchi.

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