FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A new program in Fayetteville recently secured $100,000 in the 2023 city budget, giving it the funds necessary to remove thousands of pounds of litter away from trails and roadways.

Just off the Razorback Greenway, there are camps, trash and other items homeless people are using to survive.

“You name it, we’ve probably found it out there. It’s pretty wild. I mean, you think about it, these are people’s homes that they’re creating out here in the woods,” Heather Ellzey, the city’s Environmental Educator said.

The litter is not hard to spot in some areas such as South Fayetteville. So Ellzey and Peter Nierengarten, the city’s environmental director, came up with the idea for the “Pick Me Up” program in partnership with Genesis Church in Fayetteville.

“We used a number of different strategies to try to manage litter cleanup, and this seemed like one that could really provide a win-win,” Nierengarten said.

The program is allowing those experiencing homelessness to earn $150 a week to clean up different areas of the city. Nierengarten said it’s keeping trash out of the water supply and the trails clean.

Each Monday, Ellzey said around 30 to 40 people without homes meet at 7hills Homeless Center’s day shelter to get breakfast and put their name in a drawing to be one of the five workers for the week.

“It’s really about picking people up right where they’re at and teaching them skills that hopefully they can take into other jobs,” Ellzey said.

After adding the “Pick Me Up” program to their resume, Ellzey said she’s seen people secure full-time jobs.

She said most people gain a sense of pride while working in the program, and their hard work is being recognized in the community. The Fayetteville Police Department is giving “Pick Me Up” $25,000 to purchase a used dump truck from the city to help unload more litter instead of doing it by hand.

Ellzey said at times, they’re bagging up to 5,000 lbs. of trash. The work is even motivating them to fill up trash bags along the trails, even when they aren’t one of the week’s workers.

“They have gotten used to us being out here and taking bags into their camps, filling those and then bringing them back, so we can take the trash in. They’ve definitely taken that responsibility on,” Ellzey said.

With the city’s funds and help from the police department, Ellzey said they’ll expand the amount of ‘Pick Me Up’ workers going out three times each week, and connect those experiencing homelessness with more resources in the community.

You can help support the ‘Pick Me Up’ program as well by donating waders and rain boots to Genesis Church since Ellzey said most of their workers only have the shoes that are already on their feet.