At $15 an hour, homeless help clean up S.J.
New plan will focus on picking up trash and debris at more than forty ‘hotspots’
San Jose is home to some beautiful architecture and brilliant art but also to freeway on-ramps and creek embankments that are littered with ugly trash and debris.
Now, the city is launching a new effort to clean up dirty parts of town, and it’ll help dozens of homeless people get back on their feet at the same time.
Starting in November, San Jose will pay more than 25 homeless residents at least $15 an hour to pick up trash at more than 40 “hotspots” around the city.
“We are working to transform lives,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said during a press conference at Downtown Streets Team’s San Jose office Thursday morning to announce the new program.
The organization, which works to end homelessness, and Goodwill will hire and manage the
workers. Normandin Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram offered steep discounts on two trucks to support the effort. The ultimate goal is to help participants transition into full-time employment.
The litter hotspots identified stretch across the city, from Senter Road near Capitol Expressway to Willow Street under Highway 87 and Mabury Road near Interstate 680.
One of the hotspots that crews will patrol is around the Tully ballfields on Tully Road near Galveston Avenue, where Little League families have complained recently about an increasingly unsafe environment. A number of homeless people live near Coyote Creek, which runs alongside the ballfields, and the area is of- ten strewn with litter.
Jonathan Fleming, president of the nearby Senter Monterey Neighborhood Association, said he’s “extremely excited” about the new program.
Fleming, who proposed a similar idea earlier this year as part of an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the City Council, said he believes the program will give participants a sense of purpose. And he’s hopeful workers who clear debris from the area can talk with residents of the nearby encampments and encourage them to help keep the area clean by gathering their trash together rather than allowing it to litter the ground.
“I’m very optimistic and hopeful that it will help,” Fleming said.
In addition to helping beautify San Jose and giving the city’s homeless residents an opportunity to work, Liccardo said the pro- gram is an effort to “change the narrative.”
Too often, people see trash on roadsides or creek embankments and place blame solely on homeless people, the mayor said, when “the fact is, it comes from many sources.” Christine Gonzalez, a domestic violence vic- tim who lost her home after battling a drug addiction and spending years couch surfing, completed an application to participate in the program. Gonzalez said she’s been volunteering with Downtown Streets Team for several years — and receiving gift cards for basic necessities in return— but appreciates the opportunity to earn a paycheck.
“You don’t realize how hard it is to get back on your feet,” Gonzalez said. “It will give back confidence and self- esteem.”
The program will initially be funded through a $200,000 litter abatement grant approved by the City Council earlier this year, but there’s no set end date and officials would like to see the program continue.
“Wewant to see this pilot be successful,” said Chris Richardson of Downtown Streets Team.
Trish Dorsey, vice president of mission services at Goodwill of Silicon Valley, said the program will create a supportive environment to help people transition back into working.
“Goodwill’s mission aligns perfectly with the mayor’s initiative by giving people a hand up versus a hand out,” Dorsey said.
Gerald Caison, who has also experienced homelessness, thinks the new programwill help people build up a sense of integrity.
“What’s happening now,” Caison said, “it gives you hope.”
A woman walks toward friends at a homeless encampment next to Highway 101 and Interstate 280in San Jose in February.