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StarBulletin.com

Chilly weather hard on homeless


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POSTED: Saturday, March 14, 2009

The temperature was coldest about 5 a.m. yesterday, leaving Bruce Lipai's fingers and feet numb and turning his 3-year-old daughter's lips purple, Lipai said as he lay on a comforter at a grassy area near Kakaako Waterfront Park.

“;It's like you just came out from the freezer,”; he said. “;My fingers, they were like hurting.”;

“;Sometimes,”; he said, “;I wish I can stay by a fire or something, especially when it's raining and windy.”;

Lipai was among 15 park dwellers sleeping yesterday behind a Kakaako warehouse that protected them from the wind as they tried to stay warm in 60-degree weather.

At Honolulu Airport, the temperature dropped to 59 degrees before 7 a.m. - not a record, but relatively cold for residents who are used to balmy weather.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service said the cold air came from the Gulf of Alaska. A storm north of Kauai continued to push the north wind to Hawaii, but wind patterns will shift today to a warmer westerly wind.

At Ilalo and Ahui streets in Kakaako, Kathleen, who gave only her first name, wrapped herself in a green plastic table cloth that she bought at the store for a couple of dollars. The plastic stops the wind, she said.

Her face a map of deep wrinkles, she said she has lived on the streets for 17 years.

She sleeps in a chair since she gets ill if she lays down. She nearly lost her right leg, now swollen, when it became infected. She can't touch tap water because the coldness bothers her.

“;Always cold,”; she said. “;I'm freezing right now inside my skin.”;

At night she wraps herself in blankets, but the wind goes through. She wraps the plastic around her, but is careful not to pull it over her head. Police told her she will be cited for camping if she has a tarp over her head.

“;There's no freedom for the poor,”; she said. “;I don't have the proper clothes. I don't have the stuff that keeps you warm.”;

She had a dispute with a social worker who was helping her find housing and she had problems with shelters.

For about two years now, she's lived on this corner with several kittens, a rabbit and a chicken.

“;My companions are my animals,”; she said. “;I don't associate with anybody.”;

Lean Meyar, who stays at the Next Step emergency shelter, a converted warehouse in Kakaako, said the shelter was like an icebox at 1 a.m.

Steven Brooks, who has lived in Washington, D.C., said the cold did not bother him “;as long as I got my sleeping bag.”;

He kept warm yesterday in a blue fleece sweatshirt he bought at Goodwill Industries for $5.

“;I need a house. I need a roof over my head,”; Kathleen said.