40 attend inaugural cleanup aimed to integrate homeless back into community

  • Officer Reuben Pukahi loads a Parks and Recreation truck with trash bags from the first HONOUR program clean-up Thursday at Old Kona Airport Park. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Officer Wyatt Nahale names Christian Macy project manager for the next HONOUR project Thursday at Old Kona Airport Park. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A group of volunteers walk along the shoreline at Old Kona Airport Park picking up trash Thursday at the first HONOUR event. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas picks up trash along the shoreline Thursday at Old Kona Airport Park for the first HONOUR event. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Volunteer Jenaya Rockman picks up trash at Old Kona Airport Park Thursday for the first HONOUR event. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Officer Wyatt Nahale and "Dennis" pick up trash at Old Kona Airport Park Thursday at the first HONOUR event. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Christian Macy picks up trash at Old Kona Airport Park Thursday at the first HONOUR event. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Passionate, inspired and inspiring people came together as a community for the first HONOUR event Thursday at Old Kona Airport Park.

Almost 40 community members, including eight homeless individuals, gathered for a cleanup at the beach park under the tutelage of officers Wyatt Nahale and Reuben Pukahi and the Hawaii Police Department’s Community Policing Division.

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The basis of HONOUR (Homeless Outreach Nurturing Our Community) is to integrate the homeless back into the community by having them work on projects under positive guidance.

At the program’s inception — announced earlier this month — Nahale said a lot of homeless individuals need a sense of humanity, so why not have it come from a police officer taking the humanitarian role beside the enforcement role?

He said the program he helped create is based upon the police department and homeless community coming together to restore faith back into the homeless population again. He’s heard from individuals who’ve told him that they are tired of being labeled because of the troublemakers and want to do something good for the community.

So armed with gloves, trash bags and donning bright orange vests, the group started at the north end of the runway and gathered trash along the shoreline.

“I brought some folks down,” said Jenaya Rockman, who heard Nahale speak about the new program at a Rotary meeting, which motivated her to join the effort. “Once they see what it is all about, they will come again.”

“This is a hands-on project that includes the homeless population, businesses, service providers and the police community,” said Nahale. “Today is the culmination of everyone coming together.”

Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas was filling her trash bag next to a homeless individual.

“I am so grateful for officers Nahale and Pukahi for having the vision, taking the initiative and bringing this project to fruition,” she said. “All of us here recognize that we can be part of the problem or part of the solution.”

She praised the homeless clients of Hope Services who had the courage and trust in the police department to partake in the endeavor.

“We can work with respect and understanding with each other,” she said.

Christian Macy was eager to work side-by-side with community members and the police.

“I am a homeless person in this community and on probation,” he said. “I’m taking this opportunity to turn my life around. I want people to see me as someone who can help the community, not be a detriment to it.”

Macy said he had something to offer the people of this community.

“When I heard about this project I wasn’t concerned about the incentives,” he said. “I wanted to show people that I can contribute and give back, and I’m putting myself in a better situation with the police so they can see I’m not causing trouble. I want to be a contributing member of society.”

Macy said there was apprehension among some of the homeless about volunteering for a project involving police, but after his experience Thursday he will be spreading the word of the project benefits, becoming the program ambassador.

After the bags of trash were gathered and hauled away by the Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation, Nahale told the group that this first event laid the groundwork for future projects. He talked of ideas to paint the bathrooms, picnic tables and dugouts at the park as well as planting a community garden.

Impressed with the work and attitude of Macy, Nahale named him project manager of the next project, a leadership position he humbly accepted.

The group departed to Hope Services for lunch where Nahale said they would sit down and “talk story how to make it better.” Homeless volunteers also received $10 McDonald’s gift cards and a hygiene goodie bag.

Although the next HONOUR day has not been set, Nahale hopes to organize the events twice a month.

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“I appreciate this opportunity and I appreciate the police for putting this together,” said Macy.

For more information or ways to become involved contact Nahale or Pukahi at 326-4646, ext. 257.

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