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Homeless pick up others’ pieces

It’s nearly 10:30 a.m., and a dozen volunteers are ready to clean up an illegal dump site along Dorsey Drive.

Wednesday’s workers are in the giving-back mode as they repay an organization that has brought a semblance of normality to their formerly fragmented lives.

“I’m glad I can do this today, because I’m so grateful to the Hospitality House. It would be immoral not to help,” said Mike Peters, a 51-year-old who lived in a tent for two years before he found the homeless shelter. Now, he shares an apartment with a roommate.



Cindy Maple, the executive director of the Hospitality House, said Wednesday’s cleanup was the second for the organization. A few weeks ago, volunteers removed nearly two tons of trash from an abandoned homeless camp behind Hills Flat Lumber Co. in Grass Valley, she said.

The idea is for the homeless to give back to a community that has been generous to Hospitality House, which provides a number of services to the homeless, Maple said.




“Initially, we knew there was a few hundred homeless people camping in the summertime, and we were trying to make it acceptable out there,” Maple said.

The project has grown in scope, as places where homeless camps spring up become popular dumping grounds for others fortunate enough to have someplace to call home.

On Wednesday, the volunteers picked up dozens of tires, a baby swing, broken-down recliners and couches that included matching sets, and all sorts of other rubbish in the course of five hours. By the time they were finished, the group had collected an estimated ton of trash.

But despite the heat and hard work, no complaints were heard from the volunteers on this day.

“This is a way to pay back,” said a man who would not identify himself. “Since they helped me, I want to help them.”

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail pbutler@theunion.com or call 477-4239.


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