Cleaning the Way Out of Homelessness

In San Jose, homeless people who assist in cleaning local creeks can receive food, shelter and employment in return.
by | June 16, 2011 AT 3:00 PM

When children clean up their room, they often get rewarded in forms such as ice cream or extended TV time. In San Jose, when homeless people help clean up creeks near where they live, they get food, housing and money. It's just one part of the "Clean Creeks, Healthy Communities" initiative that the San Jose City Council launched this month with the help of a $680,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The four-year pilot program aims to clean up Coyote Creek, which has been polluted by homeless encampments and illegal dumping of trash that have created a dangerous habitat for its fish and wildlife, according to the EPA. To clean up the existing trash, a nonprofit will recruit and employ the homeless people living in the encampments in return for temporary housing, food vouchers and assistance in securing a full-time job and permanent home. And to maintain the cleared waterway, the plan calls for water resources agencies, university students and residents to participate in scheduled creek cleanups. To prevent future illegal dumping, the city will install physical barriers to keep cars away from the creek and encourage nearby residents to keep a watch on the area.