Homeless in Hawaiʻi During Hurricane Lane

Aug 23, 2018

Homeless encampment on South King Street in downtown Honolulu.
Credit Billie Hiraishi

The dangers of a powerful hurricane making landfall in Hawaiʻi are real for everyone. But the state’s homeless community is left especially vulnerable to the uncertainties of Hurricane Lane as it makes its final approach toward the islands. HPR’s Ku’uwehi Hiraishi reports.

Tracy Alapaʻi has been homeless on and off for the past 17 years. She spent the last three years under a bridge along Nuʻuanu Stream. Once she got word about the incoming hurricane...

Tracy Alapa'i packed up all her belongings in order to find a good spot to lay low during Hurricane Lane.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

“We packed up all…everyone knows that I hate getting out of my river,” says Alapa’i.

She was able to fit everything she owned into a shopping cart and rolled it down to ʻAʻala Park.

“Clothes, tools, tarp, food, dog food, shampoo, conditioner, and then cans and bottles, and that’s it,” says Alapaʻi.

She’s been through hurricanes before including Hurricanes ‘Iniki and ‘Iwa but this is the first she may experience homeless.

Alapa'i cleans up before the sun goes down.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

“We’re kind of worried about it, because Category 4, Category 5, that’s a big deal,” says Tee.

Her boyfriend, an older homeless man who goes by the name Tee said he was somewhat relieved that a hurricane was coming. This meant he could more freely seek shelter and food without the stigma of being as he said “that homeless guy.”

“Yeah, we just kind of trying to keep our heads up but this just adds a lot more stress to everything,” says Tee.

Tee is just one of an estimated 6,500 known homeless people in the state who are bracing for the impacts of Hurricane Lane.

Kimo Carvalho, Communications Director of the Institute for Human Services.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

Kimo Carvalho, Communications Director for the Institute for Human Services, says a dozen or so outreach workers from the agency have spent the last couple of days warning every homeless person they know to seek shelter.

“And as you know there are many street, many blocks, many corners, many parks,” says Carvalho.

He says safety is the number one concern but sometimes the threat of hurricane conditions are not enough to convince homeless folks to take shelter.

“Even today as we’re going out we have some clients saying well you know we see storms come and go all the time and nothing really happens, so you know I think we’re just going to wait it out,” says Carvalho, “And then comes the moment where they canʻt handle, theyʻre scrambling to figure out where do I go. So we want to make sure that they have all the information that they have all the information necessary so in that moment, if it comes to that, they know where to go.”

Alapaʻi is one of those people.

“To go to shelters and all, to deal with a lot of people in a cramped space it’s not my thing,” says Alapaʻi.

Nonetheless, Carvalho says 20 evacuation shelters will open this morning on O’ahu and will remain open until the threat has passed. All shelters are pet friendly and welcome all persons in need.