Outreach workers across the Hawaiian Islands are going to homeless encampments near streambeds and along coastlines to inform homeless people about Hurricane Lane.

The storm is expected to impact the Big Island on Thursday and move toward Oahu on Friday, leaving the state’s estimated 6,530 homeless people especially vulnerable.

State homeless coordinator Scott Morishige joined outreach workers on Sand Island near Honolulu Harbor on Tuesday afternoon to warn people about the storm and encourage them to go to homeless shelters.

“A lot of the people we’ve talked to so far say they’re going to play it by ear,” Morishige said. “Not all of them are 100 percent sure that a storm is going to come.”  

Nick and I went exploring in the Makiki drainage tunnels to check on a tip i received about homeless camping inside the drainage system. We found about 5 camping areas and a couple people living down there.
Heavy rain can threaten homeless people who camp near streams and along drainage tunnels, like this one in Makiki. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018

Hawaii County officials are directing the police and fire departments to tell the island’s more than 800 homeless people about gyms and public schools that will be designated as evacuation shelters during the storm, Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe said. The island is under a hurricane warning and evacuation shelters will likely open Wednesday or Thursday, he said.

Honolulu has not announced the locations of evacuation sites yet, but many outreach workers plan to return to encampments Wednesday to provide updates, Morishige said. Evacuation shelters are typically located at public schools or in gyms.

“We’re just being proactive at this point, we want to let them know that in situations where it can get bad, that things get chaotic and we might not have a bed available,” said Kimo Carvalho, a spokesman for the Institute for Human Services, a nonprofit that runs seven emergency homeless shelters on Oahu.

If homeless shelter beds are unavailable, people will be diverted to an evacuation shelter.

Buses might be made available to transport homeless people to shelters, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said at a news conference Tuesday.

“Should need be we can deploy, we’ve been told, about 10 buses to go to communities where we know the homeless reside,” Caldwell said, adding shelters “probably need to be pet friendly because many homeless will not leave their area without their pets.”

City officials are looking at schools on Oahu’s west side that could be used to shelter homeless people during the storm.

Twenty-eight children who live at a large homeless camp near the Waianae Boat Harbor were sent to stay in homes of relatives or friends Tuesday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Two facilities operated by IHS, Hale Mauliola, an emergency shelter, and Kahauiki Village, a transitional shelter, are near low-lying areas and may need to be evacuated, Caldwell said.

The IHS homeless shelter in Iwilei is a designated Red Cross evacuation shelter that opens to the larger community during natural disasters, Carvalho said. The site stores food, blankets and other supplies.  

Twenty-eight children who live at a large homeless camp near the Waianae Boat Harbor were sent to stay in homes of relatives or friends, Twinkle Borge, the camp’s leader, said Tuesday.

About 200 adults who live in the camp plan to remain, Borge said. Many are securing their tents, some using cars or trucks as weights to tie the tents down. Borge picked up 10 days’ worth of food, water and propane for herself and others who live at the encampment.

Two years ago, homeless people who live at the boat harbor evacuated during a tsunami warning and returned to find their possessions stolen, Borge said.

“That’s why most of us won’t go,” she said.

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