By Joel Anderson, Point Park News Service:
Dressed in his Sunday best of khakis, a button-down shirt and a Habitat for Humanity hat, Adam Christian walks the streets of the South Side carrying a white bucket, red broom and dust-pan. Christian is doing his best to keep his neighborhood clean.
“I’m looking for any kind of honest work,” he said. “I have some spare time, so I’ve been pitching in and cleaning litter around the house, literally around the house – not in the house.”
For the residents of South Side, trash is an everyday problem. As soon as they make headway cleaning up the barrage of garbage, party crowds of 20,000 to 30,000 non-residents visit the area’s amenities, messing it all up again.
“I love the South Side,” Christian said. “I think it’s the greatest place I’ve ever lived. That’s why I try to help keep it clean.”
Christian first became involved in his community at the Spring Clean-Up event sponsored by Duquesne University in April. Ever since then, he’s been doing his part to help keep the streets clean.
“It’s kind of a compulsion. Once you’re aware of the trash, it’s just really tough to ignore. I guess it’s a good compulsion,” Christian said.
The Spring Clean-Up is just one way local officials are trying to get more residents involved. Chamber of Commerce President Kim Collins said there’s great communication between the groups.
“We have four associations working to help keep the South Side clean,” she said. “We have meetings to see what we can do to fix the community.”
One of those groups is the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association, a gathering of local business owners who try keep the trash their customers create to a minimum.
Collins said one of the ideas for the association would help contain one of the city’s biggest headaches, cigarette butts.
“We’re trying to get cigarette receptacles installed outside some businesses so people have a place to put them instead of throwing them on the ground,” she said. “We want to try to tackle the problem before it hits the pavement.”
Christian said cigarette butts are one of the most common things he cleans up.
“Cigarettes butts are kind of my personal grudge because I spend a lot of time picking them up, and it’s not fun,” he said. “You have to dig them out of the cracks. … Smokers tend to have the attitude that it’s not littering for some reason.”
Christian regularly carries gloves and hand sanitizer with him, just in case he’s able to pick up trash at any time during the day.
“One day I had a job interview on the North Side and rather than taking the bus or something, I decided to walk. And I brought some gloves and a bag and picked up the big pieces of trash that you can’t miss, like wrappers and stuff like that,” he said.
The Chamber of Commerce also has a volunteer program called the South Side Clean Team program, which assists with cleaning East Carson Street.
“We have one to 12 students that help out five to six days a week to sweep up litter, and it’s going really well,” Collins said.
The South Side Community Council also has several initiatives to help keep the area clean. President Catherine Mitchell said the Community Council is moving from trash pick-up programs toward beautification projects. One of them is called Green N’at.
“It’s a guerilla gardening project that helps with landscapes,” she said.
In a response to a request for comment, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s office provided a list of initiatives the mayor implemented to aid the South Side in the community’s effort to keep the area clean.
The Mayor’s Love Your Block grant aimed to collect 500 pounds of broken glass from streets and sidewalks. The goal was achieved through the efforts of the Glass SweeP-Up event held by the Keep Our Pups Safe group.
Collins said she wants to see South Side obtain as much support as Downtown, which receives its funding from Downtown property owners.
“Ideally, I’d love to see water trucks cleaning on Saturday mornings, so at 9 a.m., the sidewalk looks clean and the air doesn’t smell like pizza,” she said.
Mitchell said she really admires people who help out when there isn’t an event set up.
“How can we clone them or inject their spirit into the community?” she said. “Kudos to the person who’s just out there picking it and not doing it for a shirt.”
Christian said he hopes all the cars that drive by him get some form of inspiration to get involved.
“Even if a couple of those people have been inspired to start doing it themselves, or at least have stopped littering, at least I’ve had some minor impact,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just a guy trying.”