Cash for Trash program trades money in pockets for litter off streets in Chattanooga

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Mitchell Crist carries bags of litter to give to the Cash for Trash program set up by the The Downtown Chattanooga Alliance on Thursday, July 15, 2021 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The program offers Chattanooga's homeless population four dollars a bag for up to five bags of litter a day, four days a week in the form of payment cards to select downtown businesses.

Mitch Crist picks up trash downtown several mornings a week, trading up to five full trash bags for $4 each once he wraps up his rounds.

"I do it pretty much every day," Crist said. "I like going down to Mellow Mushroom to buy a couple of beers, or to Dollar General or Bantam and Biddy to get something to eat."

Crist has become a regular in the Cash for Trash program the Downtown Chattanooga Alliance started piloting in March, said Steve Brookes, executive director of the alliance. Like most participants, Crist is homeless and spends his days and nights on the city's streets.

"I think the feedback I hear the most is they feel better about themselves," Brookes said of program participants. "They made their own money today, they didn't have to ask for it or get a handout."