'You rebuild and you survive': Lava evacuees seek new housing

'You rebuild and you survive': Lava evacuees seek new housing
Fero is in the process of building a kitchen made of wood pallets from Puuhonua o Puna. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Fero is in the process of building a kitchen made of wood pallets from Puuhonua o Puna. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Fero said that when it was time to evacuate she only had enough time to get her pets out. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Fero said that when it was time to evacuate she only had enough time to get her pets out. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Things aren't getting any easier for the thousands of Big Island residents who have been displaced by eruptions and lava flows in lower Puna.

For over a month, lava evacuees have had to find new places to live while their communities were ravaged by eruptions in Kilauea's lower east rift zone. Following the mass evacuations, some were able to stay with family and friends or at county shelters.

But others, like Jud Fero of Kapoho Farms, have opted to go a more creative route to find housing.

The 77-year-old woman was displaced on June 1 after lava flows rendered her Kapoho Farm Lots home completely inaccessible. Fero said the sudden evacuation left her with enough time to gather her pets, but she had to leave all of her belongings behind.

Fero has since relocated to property she bought years ago along Highway 130 — but it's unfenced and therefore unsuitable for her horses. Making the trek to Hilo where they're currently stabled is making it hard for her to settle in and build.

With all her animals "under one roof" — even if it's a tarp — Fero says she'll sleep much better at night.

Right now, "home sweet home" for Fero is a horse trailer with two mattresses and a few boxes — and she's not complaining.

"I don't have time to cry, really," Fero said. "Why should we? There are so many things that are worse in the world than this."

Fero says she's been collecting pallets from Puuhonua o Puna to keep her pets out of the dirt, and to build a pallet kitchen.

"It's coming together, slowly. It's a little lopsided — but most of my life has been like that so I'm used to it," Fero said.

Several churches and volunteer groups have been building tiny houses for Puna residents, while government officials are still in the planning phase of long-term housing projects for lava evacuees.

One Big Island landowner set up tents and porta potties on her Waimea farm and is hosting close to a dozen displaced residents.

"We have a lot of strong people out here and a lot of love out here in Hawaii," Fero said. "You wouldn't find this in a lot of places, but out here you do."

Fero says she plans on building an entire pallet house once she completes her kitchen. Until then, she says the cozy quarters of her horse trailer, without running water or electricity, suit her just fine.

"We do our thing, we wake up in the morning and we rebuild," Fero said. "When something is gone you stick with it and you rebuild and you survive."

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