Wildfires in Maui have ravaged the homes of hundreds of residents, and displaced thousands of people.
As of Monday morning, 850 people are still missing, and 114 have been confirmed dead. But many residents of Lahaina, Maui were homeless even before disaster struck, leaving the community concerned for those who are suffering from an overlooked crisis.
Hawaii's international reputation as a tranquil paradise has made the cost of living in the state exorbitantly high, pushing organizations like Maui-based Share Your Mana to address "explosive" rates of homelessness in recent years.
The organization's founder, Lisa Darcy, told NBC News that the struggles of Lahaina's homeless community risk going unheard.
“Sometimes they don’t have the emotional or mental ability to advocate for themselves," Darcy said.
The FBI and Maui Police Department have worked together to locate 1,285 missing individuals, but without cellphones or networks of people to account for them, missing homeless people are more challenging to track.
In the 2022 Homeless Point In Time Count, a total of 741 homeless people were counted in Maui County, 157 of them in Lahaina. The numbers are likely much higher than federal counts, due to lack of investiment from government officials.
Monique Ibarra, director of Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center, told NBC that homeless residents likely comprised many of those who remain missing. Their center in Lahaina housed more than 200 people before it was destroyed by the wildfires.
The unspoken disaster of missing homeless people has been years in the making, with Hawaii's ongoing housing affordability crisis. A recent report from the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization found that Maui County is "extremely rent burdened," with 53.7 percent of residents paying more than a third of their income in rent.
Some leaders in Hawaii have proposed to send homeless newcomers back to the continental US, but others have lived there for years. As of Monday, NBC reported more than 30 listed homeless people are still missing, including beloved long-time members of the Lahaina community.