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Homeless, formerly homeless turn trash into cash at abandoned camps

A ragtag army of workers, including many homeless and formerly homeless people, fanned out in the Broadlawn area of Franklin Township. Their mission was to clean up three abandoned homeless camps along the Camp Chase bike trail. (WSYX/WTTE)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) -- It's a novel new way to clean up trash, specifically, the mounds of it left behind in abandoned homeless camps.

On a windblown 27°F day two weeks ago, a ragtag army of workers, including many homeless and formerly homeless people, fanned out in the Broadlawn area of Franklin Township. Their mission was to clean up three abandoned homeless camps along the Camp Chase bike trail.

They were drawn to the task in a couple of ways.

"Basically, it has to do with changing the image. A lot of these folks that are cleaning up are homeless. But this isn't the camp they lived in, so they're cleaning up somebody else's filth," said organizer Fred Reiser.

Reiser feels this day is about showing them order, in a life that's often in chaos. They're also being paid.

Reiser's foundation, Jordan's Crossing (named after his late son), is paying each person $10/hour, roughly $40 for the day to do the work.

Franklin Township trustee John Fleshman estimates each camp costs $50,000 to clean. He's chipping in with township resources, including a dump truck," Fleshman said.

"This has given them an opportunity: self-worth, wanting to get back into the workforce, get a job and maybe stay off the streets and the corners asking for money versus earning it."

Recovering addict, now minister Sean Copley showed his flock during the cleanup via Facebook Live. He used to live in one of the camps.

"Just to be able to come out here, you know, to show the world we are people. You know, we do matter."

In four hours, the group hauled an estimated 5,200 pounds of everything from sodden bedding, to tents, tires, food containers and even hypodermic needles out to a service road, where it was hauled off.

Fred Reiser hopes his army cleaned up not only camps but also some conceptions.

"I can't tell you how inspirational this is," he said.

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