SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – There’s a new group of superheroes in town and their mission is to help clean up Spartanburg County.
One month ago, the new program began and, so far, it’s being deemed a success.
“It’s hard for me to talk about this without getting choked up a little bit, because the thought that these gentlemen are changing their lives by helping beautify our county is wonderful,” Jamie Nelson, with Spartanburg County Environmental Enforcement, said.
Three men who were experiencing homelessness are no longer known for that. They’re now known for being heroes.
“They were all pretty down and defeated before they were able to get into this program; and they all look forward to going to work now,” their supervisor Olivia McIntyre said. “There’s something–especially for men–about having a job, for their pride and their self-worth.”
They’re a part of a new program that the City of Spartanburg says helps to solve two problems at once.
“We know that we have homeless folks in our community who are trying to transition to stable employment, and we’re trying to help them do that; and we know that we have a litter problem in town as well,” City of Spartanburg Spokesperson Christopher George said.
Right now, the three litter heroes go around the county, picking up trash on the side of the road.
They work Monday through Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and they make $12 an hour.
“These guys have come to work every day,” Nelson said. “I know corporations that have employees that have not been there every day.”
So far, in just one month, the crew has cleaned more than 50 miles of roadside.
“They have collected 256 bags of litter and the total tonnage removed is 4,550,” Sarah Daniel, with the United Way of the Piedmont, said.
But it’s not just about the trash.
“They’re also heroes among the homeless because they’re paving a way,” McIntyre said. “They’re forging the pathway for others to follow to get out of homelessness.”
As part of the program, the men also get an hour a week of case management and life skills training.
“We go over goals, we talk about their spending, we were able to set up time for bank accounts,” Daniel said. “So, we really just set goals for them to be successful at the end of this 90-day pilot program.”
Their supervisor said they’re already seeing some of those goals being met.
“One month in, we have one in an apartment and one who just got his driver’s license back,” McIntyre said.
As the heroes continue to work, the County has a kind reminder for the community.
“Litter’s a crime. It’s changing lives, but it’s still a crime. Don’t do it,” Nelson said.
While this is currently a 90-day pilot program, those involved told 7 News they’re hoping to see it continue and grow.
If you’re interested in helping out with this new program–whether it be by funding or employment opportunities–you can contact Spartanburg County Environmental Enforcement, the City of Spartanburg, or OneSpartanburg, Inc.
There are several organizations behind the new program, including the Spartanburg Opportunity Center, United Way of the Piedmont, H.O.P.E. Ministries, Keep OneSpartanburg Beautiful, Palmetto Pride, Miracle Hill Ministries, SPIHN, SC Works, and GoForth Recovery.
OneSpartanburg, Inc. sent us the following statement:
“OneSpartanburg, Inc. Is happy to partner on the litter heroes program. It’s really an innovative way to address a problem across our community – litter – while offering a path toward sustained employment for homeless individuals in Spartanburg. This program showcases Spartanburg’s status as a collaborative community and a regional leader.”