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Hawaii National Guard engineers build shelters for evacuees

By Lt. Col. Wayde Minami | State of Hawaii, Department of Defense | June 11, 2018

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PAHOA, Hawaii – Since June 7, engineers of the Hawaii Army National Guard have been constructing a community of emergency "micro-shelter" housing units in Pahoa, Hawaii, 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 Sacred Heart Church.

The initial phase of the project will make 20 housing units available to families, many of whom are currently 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 Capt. Matthew Driggers, commander of the 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.

Following an early-morning ceremony to bless the project on Saturday, National Guard Soldiers, contractors and other volunteers descended on the site. By the end of the day, the outer structure and roofs of the micro-shelters were in place. Interior work, such as installing dry wall, will be performed in coming days.

The new community has been dubbed "Sacred Heart Shelter" and organizers hope to have it ready for move-in soon.