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Officials Create Housing Solutions for Displaced Residents

June 5, 2018, 6:46 PM HST
* Updated June 6, 9:10 AM
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Hawaiian Airlines. Courtesy photo

As hundreds of residents in the East Rift Zone lose their homes to the current lava flows, and with no end in sight, county and state officials are scrambling for ideas.

They are working with FEMA and other entities to assist evacuees into new housing situations as evacuation centers near capacity.

One-Way Flights

In another effort to help the Big Island’s displaced families, Child and Family Service announced that a limited number of one-way flights are available to residents who are evacuees from areas that are under immediate evacuation order. Currently, these areas include Lanipuna Gardens and parts of Leilani Estates.

Hawaiian Airlines is donating miles to help families in need. Evacuees will need to coordinate through Child and Family Service and are asked not to try and arrange flights directly with Hawaiian Airlines.

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The one-way only tickets are for flights to the Mainland or other islands in Hawai‘i.

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Evacuees have to show proof proper identification, proof of residency and contact information of the person they will be staying with at their intended destination.

No animals will be relocated and residents will have to find alternative modes to ship their vehicles.

Applications can be picked-up Mondays through Fridays at the Pāhoa Community Center.

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Residents in the mandated areas of evacuation can call (808) 961-5166 or (808) 965-9771 for further information.

Child and Family Service

The County of Hawai‘i is also assisting Child and Family Service with relocation efforts.

Child and Family Service Chief Program Officer Joey Keahiolalo said they have assisted 11 individuals with relocation flights and some of those were families.

Currently, the organization is sifting through 180 applications who have come in and are prioritizing applicants based on immediate needs.

Applications will continue to be accepted; however, resources may be depleted within the next couple weeks.

Child and Family Service is also providing counseling, rental assistance, deposits, gas and other needs to many residents in need.

Kaiko‘o Project

In a media briefing on Friday morning, June 1, 2018, Mayor Harry Kim’s spokeswoman, Janet Snyder, said that in 1960, the county created the “Kaiko‘o Project.” The project cleared hundreds of acres of land and created new housing within six months in Waiakea, above the tsunami inundation zone.

“Harry says he’s going to make a whole new community for the people of Puna to give them hope that there’s a better tomorrow,” Snyder said.

According to Snyder, Mayor Kim said, “If they could create a plan in six months, so can we.”

Governor David Ige. Photo courtesy of the Office of Governor David Ige.

Second Emergency Proclamation

Gov. David Ige today signed a second supplemental emergency proclamation, adding housing and law-enforcement provisions to ensure the health and safety of the people who have been most affected by the ongoing Kīlauea eruption.

“The lava flow has expanded and overrun more communities as it’s advanced, and earthquakes continue to rock the area,” said Gov. Ige. “Hundreds of structures have been destroyed, including residential homes. I’m working closely with Mayor Kim and FEMA to develop a housing plan, and this supplemental proclamation gives the county more options for suitable shelters and rapid rehousing efforts.”

The second supplemental proclamation permits the governor and/or mayor to take the following actions with respect to housing:

  • Establish guidelines for providing accommodations and shelter
  • Identify county, state and private locations and facilities suitable for use as shelters
  • Provide for relocation and rehabilitation for disaster victims
  • Make state lands available for housing

“As the size of the affected area has grown, so have the challenges of keeping the residents and their property safe,” Gov. Ige said. “We’ve had people who refuse to comply with officials who are trying to control access into extremely hazardous areas, putting themselves and our first responders at risk. The combined federal, state and county efforts are focused on the health and safety of our community. The emergency rules we are adopting will increase criminal penalties for those who do not obey emergency officials.”

The second supplemental proclamation sets criminal penalties for those violating emergency rules, including:

Interfering with emergency personnel
Failing to comply with reasonable directions of emergency personnel
Failing to evacuate
Violating curfew
The emergency rules also prohibit the operation of drones in the incident area.

The second supplemental emergency proclamation can be downloaded here.

Rep. Joy SanBuenaventura courtesy photo.

Housing and Sanitation Solutions

Rep. Joy. A. San Buenaventura said housing and basic sanitation are the most pressing problems for hundreds of Puna residents forced from the homes by the continuing lava flow through the Hawaii Island community.

She said she is happy that Gov. Ige has helped fast-track repairs to 14 vacant housing units, which will provide shelter and showers for some residents and believes much more is needed.

“Our neighbors are suffering and it is up to us to do everything we can to help,” said Rep. San Buenaventura (Puna). “I’m asking everyone to keep their eyes and ears open to any possible housing solutions for those in need. We have to be creative and we have to act quickly.”

The day after the 2018 legislative session ended, Rep. San Buenaventura flew home to Puna to check on Leilani Estates residents staying at evacuation centers. While at the Kea‘au Community Center, she found out there were no showers on-site and no transportation to the nearest public showers in Hilo, eight miles away.

She spoke with the manager at Hale O Puna, (a federally funded senior housing facility) across the street about any vacant apartment showers that could be used for the senior or disabled evacuees.

“I found out there were 14 vacant units, but they were in disrepair for more than a year and six would require major construction to be used,” San Buenaventura said.

During a House leadership visit on May 10, the units were inspected and found to be built of concrete hollow-block materials and were structurally sound, even if the cabinets were termite-damaged.

Rep. San Buenaventura said she is pleased that Gov. Ige and the Hawai‘i Public Housing Authority recently announced that the 14 units have been fast-tracked for seniors.

“This is just the start toward more permanent housing relocation for those whose homes were destroyed,” she said.

Rep. San Buenaventura and a group of government, nonprofit organizations and volunteers called DART: Disaster Assistance and Recovery Team have been meeting weekly to proactively look for housing solutions.

Rep. San Buenaventura last month asked Gov. Ige to issue two executive orders to provide:

  1. A waiver of the Transient Accommodations Tax for a period from now until one month after the emergency declaration has ended for rentals of less than 180 days for those who live in the evacuated zones; and
  2. Allow tenants to waive the landlord-tenant code (HRS Chapter 521) such as deposit, notice, termination, and covenants of habitability to streamline the rental process.

She also requested that Gov. Ige quickly sign into law Senate Bill 2401 to build Ohana Zones for homeless residents and free up much-needed housing.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, June 4, 2018, Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno discussed some of the options the county was considering for housing people who have been dislocated.

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Some of these options included housing evacuees in temporary shelters at the Pāhoa Sacred Hearts Church site, having HPM build mini houses and the county finding locations to rebuild entire communities—similar to what they did in the 1960s.

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