My Dream for an Organization that Helps the Homeless and the Environment

homeless people garbage middle eastKaren ponders the possibilities of a new social idea to help the homeless and the environment.

Walking down the street this morning, watching a homeless man rummage through the trash for recyclable bottles and cans, I had a dream.  A dream of an organization that helps the homeless while helping the environment.  A dream of an organization with a twofold social and environmental conscience.

What if there was an organization that encouraged the way that the homeless scavenge for recyclable goods?  Though fueled by economic necessity, their actions nevertheless help the environment and should be encouraged.

This could be done in many ways.  Through creating, for example, a one-stop recycling center and soup kitchen where homeless people could bring the cans and bottles that they’ve collected and receive double the normal worth of the returned deposits.  And while they’re there, it would be nice if there was a hot meal waiting for them free of charge, as well.

Or what if there was a way for homeless people to borrow small carts so that they didn’t have to carry around all those bottles and cans in bags slung over their backs?

It would also be great if an organization encouraged the homeless to collect recyclable items that currently cannot be returned for a deposit fee – such as paper.  By compensating the homeless for recycling such materials, an organization could provide more income for the homeless and ensure that more recyclable items keep going through the cycle.

Watching the homeless man this morning made me think of the Zableen (or, “garbage collectors”) – a community in Cairo that recycles about 80% of the city’s trash in the slums, where they live. The zableen sort through all of the trash by hand, finding a use for every single thing and as a result they have practically no carbon footprint.  Proctor & Gamble has gotten involved with the zableen community by setting up a school to teach children how to recycle plastic.

There are already a growing number of farms, shops, and organizations in Israel that combine social and environmental responsibility – such as Shtaim second-hand store, Guy Lougashi, Kishorit Farm, and Shop for Meaning.  An organization that helps the homeless and the environment simultaneously seems like another logical possibility.

Has anyone heard of an organization that helps achieve these goals?

Read more about the intersection of social and environmental conscience:
Shtaim: A Second-Hand Store with a Twofold Conscience
Shop for Social Meaning in the Old City of Acco
Kishorit Becomes Organic Utopia for the Mentally Disabled
Guy Lougashi’s Dumpster Diving Designs Inspired by Buttons, Baskets, and Brakes

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8 thoughts on “My Dream for an Organization that Helps the Homeless and the Environment”

  1. I didn’t reread my post so there are typos. Sorry! Most of it makes sense.

  2. Six years ago, I started a Friends of the Parkway group here in Moab, Utah. We wanted the Parkway to be the focus upon which diverse groups and individuals could accomplish the same thing – keeping this beautiful land the the two creeks that run through it free of trash and recycling. Lectures, potlucks, and other good things flow from this. While doing cleanups, we noticed homeless camps here and there and about two years ago, we started working with the homeless that live/hand out on the parkway. Once a week I go meet whoever shows up and I pay them a small amount for the recycling they pick up from the parkway. Kristina Cassidy, who started the Hope Garden this year. (http://moabtimes.com/view/full_story/6660038/article-Hope-grows–local-woman-plants-garden-to-feed-those-in-need?) has been giving me soup and bread she makes using things from her garden to share with the homeless. We tried to get a shelter going, an idea that had a lot of support in the community, which would have created it, but the politics went against us on this one. If you go to our website, and click on the projects page, you can read about the Parkway Partners. It has not been updated lately, but it is ongoing. The folks I’ve met are very good people and they want to work. I hope our City will see the value and donate money to our group so we can have the Partners clean more of the parkway more often.

    If you are on Facebook, and can find my page, Be the Solution (there is a photo of two women kneeling down, picking up broken glass) you’ll find a photo album called “Homeless in Moab”. Check it out.

    I think the way a community treats its homeless says a lot about the community as a whole…

  3. My father collects bottles to recycle them where they should belong – at the store where you bought them. The company that recycles does a less than efficient job of re-using the bottles than the original supplier of them. Consider yourself doing a good deed to the environment, and giving social welfare opportunities for those who have less. One day, hopefully, you won't have to pay for recycling, as it is in Canada where I am from.

  4. TieDye76 says:

    I'm tired of homeless people rummaging through my private garbage. The bottle deposit should be repealed. I pay for the bottle deposit, the homeless and people on parole parade down my street and rummage through my garbage for cans. Then I pay the garbage company to come pick up the rest of the recycling. What do I get for the bottle deposit? Nothing but the joy of strangers rummaging through my trash.

  5. Anon says:

    The zabaleen previously used to do that, and they weren't tightly held but operated on their own accord with recycling companies. The problem is people don't know their trash is 1-being recycled/reused 2- could possibly have been sold for a profitable price 3- could possibly be re-made and re-sold into the market for them to re-purchase!

  6. Anon says:

    The zabaleen previously used to do that, and they weren't tightly held but operated on their own accord with recycling companies. The problem is people don't know their trash is 1-being recycled/reused 2- could possibly have been sold for a profitable price 3- could possibly be re-made and re-sold into the market for them to re-purchase!

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