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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, January 18, 2010

Cooperation could yield trash solution

Even with the shelters that have been built and the best efforts of social workers, part of O'ahu's growing homeless population is still being swept to the far reaches of the island. Along with them, the task of keeping their living area from becoming an unsanitary hazard has been swept under the rug.

An area on the Wai'anae Coast has become a particular trash heap, with the most recent cleanup occurring after complaints surfaced.

But the ongoing responsibility to deal with the problem has been batted back and forth between city and state agencies, because of questions over jurisdiction.

That whole argument is itself a pile of rubbish. The Wai'anae Coast is owed an effort by government to put together a workable upkeep plan.

Because of an unsustainable shortage of affordable homes and ongoing economic malaise, Wai'anae has harbored the largest homeless population by far. Increasingly, those who don't want to live in shelters have moved to the unimproved city parks property near the end of Farrington Highway known as "the bush." Managing the trash that now tends to pile on the roadside demands a maintenance plan that will involve city, state and community leaders.

City crews, which don't normally service vacant scrub land like this, did a cleanup of the recent rubbish backlog. Because the bulk of the property is city-owned, the city should supply bins to place there and be picked up periodically, with campers directed to use them for trash disposal.

But the trash does tend to end up on the state-owned easement along the highway, so it's logical that the state be involved in the solution. Both city officials and state Transportation Director Brennon Morioka have resolved to work on this problem. That's encouraging, particularly considering that there also are community partners standing by, ready to help.

Nani O Wai'anae, a beautification group, has worked on this problem, and now Keep the Hawaiian Islands Beautiful is poised to join the force. That group, a Hawai'i affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, has marshalled volunteers and government support and raised funds to clean areas on Maui, posting trash bins there and working with campers to help keep it clean, said its president, Dan Goodfellow.

With such a model of successful cooperation to follow, there's no reason why Wai'anae can't have this problem cleaned up in short order.