Mike Schwind is in a win-win situation.
"We get rid of our cans with almost no effort and they aren't taking up room in the trash can, as well as knowing that we are helping these guys without having to deal with the awkwardness of dishing out pocket change or food," Schwind, junior in political science, said.
The relationship between Schwind, his four housemates, and two homeless gentlemen who identify themselves as Rodney and Earl, is symbiotic. It revolves around the recycling of aluminum cans.
"When I lived in an apartment, we would always see/hear the guys going through the garbage to look for cans," Schwind said. "When we moved into the house, rather than throw (the cans) away with the trash, we started throwing them in the yard so they don't have to sift through trash to get the cans."
PSC Metals, a scrap metal and recycling company with three locations in and around Knoxville, pays fifty cents per pound for aluminum cans.
Eddie Young is a pastor at Redeemer Church and the executive director of Redeeming Hope Ministries, an organization trying to create a holistic transformation for the underprivileged and homeless of urban Knoxville. He encourages the practice of leaving cans out.
"I'm all for it, absolutely. It's one way they can make a few dollars," Young said. "It's difficult for these guys to get normal jobs. They can use whatever they can get."
Cody Larriviere, junior in marketing and one of Schwind's housemates, does not mind the practice at all.
"Leaving cans out in the front yard is beneficial to both us and them. We put all of our cans either in the front yard or in buckets and we wake up every morning to a clean yard," Larriviere said. "They are very respectful when it comes to our property. They stop by almost every morning, weather permitting."
Their first contact with the beneficiaries occurred late one night.
"We noticed two homeless guys in our lawn cleaning up, so we went outside and introduced ourselves," Schwind explained. "They asked permission to take the cans each night and also let us know they won't ever come on our porch because they don't want to trespass."
Schwind, Larriviere and their housemates, Taylor Dixon, Tyler Castro, and Tyler Bridges, are not the only UT students living in Fort Sanders trying to help out the homeless community. Olivia Bagatelas, junior in nursing, and her housemates have been leaving their cans out too.
"We started leaving them out when we moved in," Bagatelas said.
The house is all girls and they are a little nervous about leaving their bin of cans on the porch.
"We have been placing it away from the house," she said. "We would rather lay out the cans for them than them going through our trash."
Young realizes that mainstream society often sees the homeless in a negative light, a perspective he strives to change.
"I think there is an unfortunate suspicion that if you're homeless, you're dangerous," he said.
Larriviere, however, has no concerns about the dangers often associated with the homeless.
"We feel very safe because they only go through our yard. Earl even told us that 'we ain't gonna go up on your porch or stairs. We just want your cans, not your valuables,'" Larriviere said.