Evacuees face tough road ahead as 'staggering' costs of eruption mount

PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Vera Timko says focusing on her two children keeps her going when just about everything else in her life is in turmoil.

A week and a half ago, lava consumed the Lanipuna Gardens home that her husband had just built.

"There is no home," she said, through tears. "It got taken away like all the other homes and right now we don't know. We just don't know."

The family was going to stay in a rental in Kapoho, but then that became inaccessible because of the lava. Now, her family is staying in a 300-square-foot home in Orchidland with friends. At times, the family has slept in their car.

The Timko family is among hundreds scrambling to find other housing options as eruptions continue in lower Puna, four weeks after lava started spewing from the ground.

As multiple agencies and nonprofits try to alleviate the housing crisis, the financial impact to the county keeps mounting.

Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy says last week the county reported that the financial impact from the eruptions had already reached $3 to $6 million on lost revenues from property taxes and reduced property values — plus an additional $1.4 million in unanticipated costs like overtime.

[Mandatory evacuations in effect as lava threatens more homes, roads]

"Staggering and that's just in the last month," she said. "You can only imagine that that number will grow and how we strategically move through that ... it's going to take a lot of people."

Incoming Rotary Club president Benson Medina is hoping Hilo businesses can replicate Oahu's quickly-erected Kahauiki Village, a public-private long-term housing project for homeless families.

"If we can get a project like that going over here, I'm confident that you ring that bell people are going to come, people are going to support it," said Benson Medina, of the Rotary Club of South Hilo.

Meanwhile, the disaster shows no signs of easing.

And countless residents, like Timko and her family, are looking for a helping a hand.

"I just want to go back home that's all," she said. "I just want a little corner for my family and a little yard so my kids can play outside."

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