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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Volunteers make dent in wall of rubbish


By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

A nearby bush area has become a vast campground for homeless.

Partners in Development Foundation photo

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MĀKAHA More than 50 volunteers yesterday removed an estimated one-third of the tons of debris that had constituted a wall of trash along Kea'au Beach Park since Feb. 13. About half of the crew was made up of eighth-graders from Mililani Middle School.

The effort was organized by the Wai'anae Community Outreach homeless service agency and co-planned with Partners in Development Foundation's Ka Pa'alana Homeless Family Literacy Program.

"This was a part of a service learning project for the students," said Danny "Ka'eo" Goya, program manager for Ka Pa'alana, which has recently partnered with the school.

"What it is is an opportunity for the students to learn about homelessness. The main thing is that we just wanted to assist in what's going on out there at Kea'au Beach. We realize there is a trash problem there," Goya said.

The massive rubbish heap constituted the leftover trash that spilled from a mile-long bush area immediately west of the park. The area, variously known as "the wild west" and "no man's land," serves as a refuge for a large population of homeless men, women and children.

The Feb. 13 cleanup, which involved about 200 volunteers, came in response to the continuing buildup of trash along the state-owned Farrington Highway running parallel to the bushes. The homeless population inside the bushes had exploded following the city's monthslong beach park cleanup campaign that displaced hundreds of park tent dwellers.

VAST QUANTITIES

Organizers of that effort had assumed 700 garbage bags and two 20-foot containers would put a dent in the garbage buildup.

But that only accounted for about a fourth of the debris hauled from the bushes.

With no place else to put the excess, the volunteers stacked it along the side of an access road inside the park. That's where it remained until yesterday.

Joining the Mililani Middle School students were more than two dozen volunteers from Wai'anae Community Outreach, Partners in Development, nurses from Hawai'i Pacific University and 10 homeless park and bush dwellers.

Goya's organization paid $220 for a refuse company to haul yesterday's trash to the Waimānalo Gulch landfill.

COMPANY HELPS

Mike Alvarez, area manager for Henkels & McCoy, one of the largest privately owned utility contractors in the country, said his company would voluntarily help haul out the remainder of the trash.

"I had just seen the cleanup effort they had going on out there, and I wanted to see if there's anything we could do to help out," Alvarez said . "We've done a lot of work on the west side. And a lot of my guys live out there.

"It's a beautiful side of the island, and it's a shame to see so much trash and stuff out there."

Alvarez spoke yesterday with state Rep. Maile Shima-bukuro, D-45th (Wai'anae, Mākaha, Mākua), who spearheaded the cleanup operation on Feb. 13.

Shimabukuro told him that if his crew did the cleanup through a nonprofit agency, the Waimānalo Gulch landfill might waive the $100-per-load tipping fees, as the landfill did for the previous cleanup.

Otherwise, Shimabukuro said, she would pay the tipping fees from her legislative budget, as she did for yesterday's volunteer cleanup.

Shimabukuro said yesterday's effort, coupled with Alvarez's offer, "is exactly the kind of Good Samaritan offer that I have been praying for. There is still much that needs to be done, and we can use more help."