San Jose, one of the wealthiest cities in the nation and home to lavish bayside estates and beautiful downtown architecture, is not immune to the uglier aspects of civilization. Unsightly trash lines roadsides and creeks, and the less fortunate members of society tend to stick out amid the city’s Silicon Valley luster. Now, the city is launching a new effort to clean up its trash and help its homeless population at the same time, according to the Mercury-News.
Starting this November, San Jose will partner with Downtown Streets Team and Goodwill to pay over 25 homeless men and women a minimum of $15 per hour to clean up certain “hotspots” around town. Downtown Streets and Goodwill will work together to hire and manage the workers, with the ultimate goal to help them transition into full-time employment. The city also received help from a local car dealership, Normandin Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram, who sold two trucks to the organization at steep discounts to support the effort.
Initial financial support for the program has been provided by the San Jose City Council in the form of a $200,000 litter abatement grant. There is no set end date for the program and officials would like to see it continue should it prove successful.
“We are working to transform lives,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. In addition to its benefits to the program workers, Mayor Liccardo believes the program will also help to “change the narrative.” He believes that the homeless population takes an unfairly disproportionate amount of the blame for the city’s trash problem when “the fact is, it comes from many sources.”
Jonathan Fleming, president of the Senter Monterrey Neighborhood Association and a former candidate for the city council, agrees with Mayor Liccardo. Noting that he is “extremely excited” about the new program, he believes that it will have the added benefit of encouraging those in homeless encampments to clean up their own garbage following the example in solidarity with program workers.
“I’m very optimistic and hopeful that it will help,” he said.
Christine Gonzalez, a domestic violence victim and former drug addict who lost her home, is one of the first applicants for the program. She has been volunteering with Downtown Streets for several years in return for basic necessities, but she is ready to graduate to a regular paycheck.
“You don’t realize how hard it is to get back on your feet,” she said. “It will give back confidence and self-esteem.”
Gerald Caison, who himself was formerly homeless, believes that the program will provide something most valuable to San Jose’s down-and-out citizens.
“What’s happening now,” he said, “it gives you hope.”