Mike Barnes, 41, likes helping people, and it is evident in every aspect of his life. As a recovering drug addict, Barnes recognizes the need for a second chance and a helping hand. Just don’t ever confuse that with a handout.
“I want to help the people that you see who are clearly homeless,” he says. “The ones who walk around with a backpack, bags in their hands, those are the guys I like to help. The guys who want to get out and work and make a dollar if given the chance; those who want to become productive members of society but just have fallen prey to addiction or hard times. Those are the ones I will always help.”
In 2008, Barnes began “Git Rid of It” junk and trash removal service, which goes into homes, sometimes hoarder homes, and removes unwanted items.
The service’s mission is to give a leg up to the needy, the homeless and families battered by domestic violence, substance abuse and poverty. Based in Falls Church, the family-run business dedicates its efforts to cleaning out hoarder homes, bankrupt businesses and families in transition, then recycling and redistributing the unwanted items to those in need.
“We go to parks where we know the homeless congregate and give them whatever they need,” Barnes says. “That might be a coat, some shoes, a blanket, whatever will help them get through another day.”
Some members of the Git Rid of It team have previously had their own tough times with substance abuse, unemployment and poverty, but now have been given their own ‘leg up’ and under Barnes’ tutelage are dedicated to helping others.
“I hire people who need to work,” Barnes says. “They tend to work harder and want to get ahead. Two of my guys are alcoholics who had been living out of their cars. I let them move into my house until they sobered up, then I gave them jobs. Now they have their own apartments and are grateful and continue to work hard for me. Keeping them busy every day helps them and everybody else out in all kinds of ways.”
Jason Eatman, 40, of McLean has been working for Barnes for three years.
“I have never been a desk guy,” he says. “We might be some of the oldest moving guys you have ever seen, but I get paid to work out and that keeps me in great shape.”
Eatman says going into hoarder homes is just par for the course in the junk removal business.
“We might see one a month or more,” he said. “Some of them are just unbelievable. The first one I ever went into had about 40 cats in it and was stacked four feet high throughout the house with newspapers, dirty clothes and open cat food cans. You could only open the front door about six inches and squeeze yourself in. Another one had a whole room filled floor to ceiling with tied-off grocery bags filled with dirty diapers that had been there for years. The smell was indescribable.”
Barnes says that in six years, Git Rid of It has gone from one pickup truck that he used to drive himself, to now having four 16-foot box trucks--each manned with two or more employees. The trucks are often out on the streets, working dawn until dusk seven days a week.
“Since I started, we have probably given away about 10 truckloads full of clothes and other necessities to those who needed them most,” he said.
Barnes says his next goal is to furnish the apartments of those qualifying for Section 8 subsidized housing. “We get a lot of furniture that can be recycled,” he said. “A lot of these people who finally get approved into Section 8 housing go in with nothing, so I want to be able to give them whatever they need to start their new home.”
In his off time, which he says is Sunday afternoons, Barnes’ philanthropy continues. “I have a cookout every Sunday and anyone who is hungry is invited,” he says proudly. “I have burgers, hotdogs and soft drinks for everyone.”