PORTLAND, Ore. – For many of us, one of the most visible signs of homelessness is the garbage and discarded items found near where people are living on the streets.

Central City Concern has been running downtown’s Clean and Safe Program for a long time. Clean and safe workers pick up trash and do cleaning jobs on everything from human waste to graffiti, to help make downtown more livable. Half of the workers come from Central City Concern’s homeless to work program, which pairs trainees with full time employees to give them a chance at job and a future.

“I’m actually giving back because I took a lot from my community in my younger days running and gunning and so every day is an adventure for me. I love coming to work, love my boss, love the people I work with,” said Roy Carter, who started as a trainee and has been with Central City Concern for five years.

Central City Concern also runs a new program that involves two men, a truck and a lot of blue garbage bags. The pair makes the rounds several times a week, to hand out garbage bags and pick up bags filled by the city’s homeless population. They also spend a lot of time filling the bags themselves, with trash, tents and other things left behind by homeless who have moved on.

“I gotta say that I was homeless at one point in time, I never got this low, but I do have compassion for homeless people. But when I see (the mess) it does make me kind of real sick,” said Lonnie Bearcub Rogers, who spent Tuesday morning cleaning up abandoned camps along the east bank esplanade.

Central City Concern is a nonprofit organization started in early 1970s, which has grown to offer housing, health and homeless to work programs for Portland’s most vulnerable populations.

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