BALTIMORE — Curbside recycling pickup resumed Tuesday after a five-month suspension. Among the regular DPW crews there were seven news faces from local community organizations working to pick up trash and recycling. Among them, Sheldon Smith-Gray.
"I never ever thought I’d be a trash person," said Smith-Gray.
The 23-year-old is on week two working side by side with DPW workers, including a supervisor. He's learning the ropes.
"Now that I am doing it and seeing what they go through, I respect it so much more," he said. "It’s just a once in a lifetime opportunity."
It's an opportunity made possible with the partnership between Baltimore City and community-based organizations like ROCA and Living Classrooms. Last week Mayor Brandon Scott announced the partnership adding it would help fill essential worker positions while giving hard-to-employ individuals job opportunities.
"This is an innovative way DPW is stepping up to provide those kinds of opportunities and allow someone to be able to part of a service that is desperately needed," Scott said last week.
ROCA currently has 5 guys in the pipeline. Two are already out with field crews picking up city trash and recycling. The men are paid for their work through the organization's financial arrangement with the city.
"We’re really about trying to help these guys get to the point where they can be consistent," said ROCA's assistant director, Amir Mukunda. "We want them to show up every day and once they’re able to do that we’re working with DPW to get them in a spot where they are in on a truck."
It's the same game plan over at Living Classrooms.
"We presently have five Project Serve members working with Baltimore City trash and recycling trucks," said Living Classrooms' president and CEO James Piper Bond. "Five additional Project Serve members are going through the vetting process to also safely join the workforce in the coming weeks. We are thrilled to see Baltimore city residents gaining new skills that will lead to good jobs and help clean our city."
The overall goal is that one day the individuals will become a full-time city employee.
Reflecting on his first day Smith-Grey told WMAR-2 News, "I know I'm just starting out but I'm putting in my time. Trash is one thing but recycling that's another. There's a who lot of it out there. It makes me appreciate what the city does and changes the way I think about trash."