QUESTION: The city of Longview supposedly has a contract with Wiseman Ministries (House of Disciples) for trash collection on certain roads within the city. Can you verify if this contract is in fact valid as well as the impact to the community as well as helping the residents in this program?

ANSWER: There is no question that the city has had a contract for litter collection with House of Disciples/Wiseman Ministries since the end of 2017. That contract calls for litter collection on 38 road sections and areas of town totaling more than 100 miles. (The road sections are divided into five groups and cleaned on a weekly rotating basis, with a few exceptions for weekly and quarterly pickups. Plus, the city can request extra collections.)

To date the contract has paid $47,996 to House of Disciples at a rate of $3,692 a month. (As a reminder, this was money the city previously spent out of its general fund to pay temporary employees for litter control. That money was reallocated to this program.)

“The city has furnished a list of streets for planned litter removal efforts. Additionally, as other areas are identified, those are relayed to Wiseman Ministries. The beautification services supervisor verifies the activities have been completed,” Public Works Director Rolin McPhee said in an email.

The city designates drop-off points for the litter that is collected by House of Disciples clients. The city then collects the trash and delivers it to the landfill. City officials provided me information showing the number of bags of trash that have been collected since the contract started the last week in November 2017 through May (82 weeks). That amount has varied from a low of 11 bags during the week that included this past Christmas to a high of 82 bags the week of Feb. 4-8. The average is 42 bags a week.

City spokesman Shawn Hara said the program has been beneficial to the city, and city officials are proposing to continue it as it is in the coming budget year.

As for House of Disciples, Wiseman Ministries Executive Director Tim Wiseman explained to me that the program works in different ways depending on the people employed for litter pickup from week to week.

The program was designed to help truly homeless people in the community, compared with the men in the House of Disciples program who are housed at the ministry, but who perhaps don’t have housing of their own and who are working to overcome addictions and other problems, for instance.

Homeless people, then, receive priority to work in the litter pickup program, Wiseman said.

“If we don’t have any one who shows up to work that program,” then House of Disciples clients will be assigned instead, he said. The litter program started off with three or four homeless people participating each week. It’s sporadic now, Wiseman said, noting participation fluctuates because of the summer’s heat. House of Disciples feeds the homeless people who participate in the program and provides some necessities for them.

“We don’t account for everything they do with the money, but what we hear is they utilize it for their personal needs, personal necessities,” but they determine how they handle their money, Wiseman said.

People who are new to the House of Disciples program, in their first 90 days, aren’t paid. Instead, Wiseman said, the money will go to the House of Disciples, which pours money into helping the men with outstanding court fees, child support and other issues.

“We normally have spent quite a bit of money,” helping them, Wiseman said, and he said “one of the worst things you can do” is give money to someone who is just working toward sobriety.

People who are further along in the program and who help with the litter pickup earn incentives through a points program that pays them money, Wiseman said.

Q: I’d like to know why you took the circulation number out of the “Contact Us” part of your paper?

A: We haven’t changed anything. The number is on Page 2A, listed just to the right of “Contact Us,” under the heading that says, “Missed Your Paper?” The phone number, for future reference, is (903) 237-7777.