Sure We Can, Brooklyn Recycling Center Employing NYC’s Needy, At Risk Of Closing

By WCBS Newsradio 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — A group of people who make their living on the street are in danger of losing their community, but Mike Sugerman introduces us to some people who are trying to help in today’s Difference Maker.

To you it’s just a bottle of Bud or Corona you knocked back last night, but to William it's his livelihood.

“It helps me earn money during the day. And I don’t have to rob or steal for it," he said.

Without that can of water you tossed, Vincent doesn’t know what he’d be doing.

“I’d probably be selling drugs or doing something stupid," he said.

They are part of a marginalized group — homeless, seniors, disabled, non-English speakers — who spend their days collecting bottles and cans. The so-called "canners" have a community at Sure We Can in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Sister Ana Martinez de Luca oversees the operation that redeems bottle, cans, and souls that otherwise, for one reason or another, are likely unemployable, especially in the COVID era.

“But they are able to do this work, and they feel normal coming here, and being treated nicely,” she said.

Approximately 900 canners bring in 12 million pieces a year at a nickel each. They can make upwards of $100 a day, if they hustle, but usually it’s a lot less.

Now, the center is in trouble.

“Our landlord wants to sell this property," said Ryan Castalia, who helps run the place.

He tells Sugerman the land is worth $2.7 million. That’d be a lot of cans that they don’t have.

They have until next summer to raise the funds or this community will be back on the street.

Sister Ana is in the habit of being hopeful.

“When you try to do good, the good, the intellegent, the energy, the universe, God, whatever you call it, will always work for your good. How? I don’t know," she said.

She has less than a year to find out. She doesn’t know how yet, but has to stay positive, and is sure they can.

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