Oahu outreach workers see a new type of homeless client: Lava evacuees

Outreach workers report finding lava evacuees homeless on Oahu

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Outreach workers serving the homeless in rural areas of Oahu say over the past few months they’ve started seeing people living on the streets who were displaced by the 2018 eruption on the Big Island.

“Sometimes it hurts our hearts because they’re literally out there with all their clothes and babies and it’s raining,” said outreach specialist Rose Coleman.

Months after the emergency shelters closed on the Big Island, many displaced families forced to suddenly start over remain homeless — most on Hawaii Island.

But Coleman says she started seeing lava evacuees show up on the streets of Oahu in late summer and remembers one of the first families she encountered.

“There was three adults. A mom, a dad and a grandma. And five minor children,” said Coleman.

“They started off as staying with family. Then there was some problems in their living situation and literally they just got put out on the street.”

Officials at ALEA Bridge report finding lava evacuees on the North Shore, Wahiawa and Mililani.

For many people who once lived in lower Puna, Kilauea’s eruption changed the course of their lives forever.

More than 700 homes were destroyed in the disaster. Today, hundreds more remain isolated, the access blocked by lava.

The disaster was so destructive it prompted the creation of a new question on this year’s homeless point-in-time count: Have you ever been displaced from your residence because of a natural disaster?

The annual survey of the state’s homeless population is happening this week.

ALEA Bridge is responsible for areas from Mililani to Turtle Bay and out to Kaena Point.

Three days into the week-long count, Executive Director Phil Acosta said they’ve collected about 180 surveys.

“We have received nine surveys where they have self-reported they were affected by natural disasters,” he said. “Two came from the mainland. The rest didn’t indicate specifically which island.”

Coleman says over the past few months one of the families she worked with ended up going back to the Big Island while others have gone into shelter on Oahu.

“We try our best to get them some kind of housing,” said Coleman.

Official data from the homeless census will be released in the next few months.

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