The new normal for lava evacuees: Making do

‘The most difficult part: Having to live with people that you would not normally live with.’

The new normal for lava evacuees: Making do

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Evacuee villages have become the new normal for dozens of people forced from their homes by the eruption.

For the past month, former Leilani Estates resident Rex Curry has been living at the Sacred Heart Shelter in Pahoa. For him, doing laundry now requires a 5-gallon bucket and a gadget that resembles a plunger.

“It’s called a breathing mobile washer. I got it for free from the hub,” Curry said.

It’s one of many things the eruption evacuee improvised since his home was destroyed by lava back in May.

“I live in unit 19,” said Curry. “It’s relatively small. So the hardest part is, you know you should clean up, but if you have nowhere to put anything you’re going to lay it on the ground."

Most people called the village a major step up from emergency shelters.

Alexis Adal spent six weeks at the one in Keaau.

“I couldn’t settle down there,” said Adal. “People were having nightmares at night. All night.”

In Pahoa, more than 500 people took refuge at the community denter during the height of the disaster. Curry says many of them weren’t even evacuees.

“They were just up there drinking, having a good time and live music and let’s party. And what else can I get for free, look what I got for free,” said Curry. "And they wondered why people off the streets were coming in.

Kimo Alameda, with the Hawaii County Department of Aging, says the Red Cross has a policy of not rejecting anybody who enters the shelter.

“So what we found was those who were already homeless were taking shelter because there was food, stability,” said Alameda. “We found those were the hardest to place after the situation.”

Those living at the Sacred Heart Village say they like the slower pace.

“It’s a lot more mellow in a lot of respects because we’re all at that age,” said Souza.

Curry, meanwhile, says he appreciates having more space and the luxury of being able to close his door.

“The most difficult part. Having to live with people that you would not normally live with,” he said.

Curry owned his place in Leilani Estates and would like to be a homeowner again. But despite having received a grant from the federal government months ago, securing a place that’s suitable has been a challenge.

“They give you $34,000 the maximum. Try to buy a place for $34,000. It’s a physical impossibility,” said Curry.

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