Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Sweat equity: Motel room, bus pass for picking up trash

JAKOB RODGERS Updated: March 6, 2011 at 12:00 am

Nathan Lisowski paid extra attention to anything that looked out of order in Monument Valley Park.

“I see people passing stuff up — I’m nitpicky,” Lisowski said, smiling while lugging a black plastic bag full of trash.

Each plastic wrapper and cigarette butt he picked up Sunday led him closer to a warm bed for the night during Rooms for Rubbish, which is funded by First United Methodist Church, 420 N. Nevada Ave.

Through the program, homeless people picked out by Marion House soup kitchen employees are offered vouchers from the church for either a free night in a motel or a seven-day bus pass.

In exchange, they are asked to help  pick up trash across downtown Colorado Springs for two hours on the first Sunday of every month. It’s the church’s way of reaching out to the community while keeping it clean, organizers said.

“We do this because we’re a part of this neighborhood and Christ says to love your neighbor,” said Todd Spencer, the church’s minister to youth and young adults. “How do you love somebody without knowing them?”

Spencer led with a short devotion, one asking the 10 homeless people and nine church volunteers to “have the heart and mind of a child.”

“Let’s enter this service together with the mind of children … and maybe get to know each other, maybe sharing our stories,” Spencer said.

But afterward, churchgoers focused on fellowship instead of faith.

Picking up trash along Monument Valley Creek before moving south to Antler’s Park and back up to the Marion House near Bijou Street and Cascade Avenue, Lisowski reminisced with Spencer about time spent in Texas and joked about eating crawdads.

And everyone discussed what they would do with their vouchers.

Holding a black bag while walking down the median of Cascade Avenue, Mary Jane Nelson smiled at the thought of taking a bus to pick up prescriptions and visit her doctor.

Last year, a homeless man chose the motel voucher simply because he wanted to take a long, hot shower, said Joy Fredrick, who organizes the event. He wanted to be clean for hernia surgery the following morning, she said.

“Baths are such a big deal for these folks,” Fredrick said. “You just do for these people what you can that day.”

After nearly two hours Sunday, five people chose bus passes while five chose motel vouchers. They were also handed goodie bags filled with socks and toiletries.

The handshakes later exchanged would likely to be their last. Rarely do homeless people show up twice in a row, as they’re often moving from town to town, Fredrick said.

On Sunday, though, they were fast friends.

“I didn’t want it to end,” Lisowski said.

Call the writer at 476-1654.

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