A small team of four gather on a Thursday afternoon, picking up loose garbage, needles and a discarded couch littering an alley in North Central.
White Pony Lodge is known for its safety patrols, needle-pick-ups and meal programs. Now the Regina non-profit community organization has started a spring clean up pilot project that runs Thursday evenings in the North Central neighbourhood.
"When you're walking around and you see a bunch of garbage, it's pretty gross," says Leah O'Malley, a volunteer for the clean-up and the board chair for the organization.
"When you think about people and animals having to deal with that [garbage], it really, really pulls on you that this is a very human problem, and so humans have to come up with a solution for it."
Garbage littering Heritage and North Central has been raised as an issue in Regina, with city council passing a clean communities motion that will increase city-led litter pickups and also includes stricter enforcement for illegal dumping, excessive litter and unsightly yards.
O'Malley says she wants people who live in North Central to know it's a community worth caring about.
"We all deserve a great community atmosphere, and part of that is helping clean up," she says, explaining the group targets alleys that have a lot of garbage piling up, getting garbage in bins and ensuring the bins are pulled out and ready for pickup.
Some passersby see O'Malley and her fellow volunteers picking up trash and stop to ask about their work.
"There's young kids that are playing around in the alley, that gotta play around this. And how many people that are parents care about it?" one man says, looking at the piles of garbage.
O'Malley agrees with him.
"We want people to see that we care, and there are people who care. I live down here, too," O'Malley tells him.
I think if we all lead by example as much as possible, then we're going to start changing the way that people react to things, and also maybe the way that kids look at their own neighborhood. - Leah O'Malley
While recent city council meetings have included discussion on whether all city neighbourhoods should get extended litter pickups in the spring and fall, O'Malley says she feels some neighbourhoods may need special solutions. For instance, households with more people living in them may generate more trash and struggle to keep up with their current garbage pickup schedules.
"I couldn't say I know how to fix this. I mean, we don't know how to fix it," she says, but adds that White Pony volunteers are focusing on the small contributions they can make as individuals. The group is starting small, but hopes others will join them in volunteering to clean up Regina's most littered alleys.
"I think if we all lead by example as much as possible, then we're going to start changing the way that people react to things, and also maybe the way that kids look at their own neighborhood."