By Air Force Lt. Col. Wayde Minami, Joint Task Force 5-0
PAHOA, Hawaii -- Since June 7, engineers with the Hawaii Army National Guard have been constructing a community of emergency "micro-shelter" housing units here for residents displaced by the ongoing Kilauea eruption.
Sometimes working in pouring rain and mud, the soldiers are part of a community effort led by Hope Services Hawaii, a faith-based non-profit organization. The land on which the new community is being built was provided by a local church.
The initial phase of the project will make 20 housing units available to families, many of whom are now living in evacuation shelters, cars and tents. In addition to providing the new residents with shelter, the new community will give the families much-needed privacy while helping to alleviate demands on evacuation shelters. First priority will go to senior citizens and families with children.
"It's important to help the people affected by the lava flow, to help the kids at the shelters, the elderly people," said Army Capt. Matthew Driggers, commander of the Hawaii Army National Guard’s 230th Engineer Company, which provided 48 soldiers to support the effort. "I take it very personally and want to help out."
Members of the 230th, which provided much of the skilled labor to construct the homes, have been working side-by-side with volunteers from local contracting companies and charitable organizations to clear and prepare the land and begin initial construction of the shelters.
Army National Guardsmen, contractors and volunteers descended on the site following an early-morning ceremony June 9. By the end of the day, the outer structure and roofs of the micro-shelters were in place. Interior work, such as installing drywall, will be performed in coming days.
The new community has been dubbed "Sacred Heart Shelter" and organizers said they hope to have it ready for move-in soon.