San Jose hires homeless to clean up city

Dhriti Iyer

With rising house prices and living costs come increasing rates of homelessness. According to a census taken in 2017, there were 4,350 homeless individuals in San Jose. Since November, San Jose has been piloting the Beautify San Jose Program, in which the city pays homeless citizens $15 per hour to pick up trash around the city. San Jose hopes that the program will set homeless individuals on the path to self-sufficiency.
The Beautify San Jose program employs a total of 25 homeless citizens from local shelters to clean up trash for 4 to 5 hours a day in San Jose. Forty hotspots, including Tully Road in East San Jose and Saratoga Avenue in West San Jose, have been selected as locations for trash collecting. The program has partnered with Goodwill and the Downtown Streets Team, two organizations that work with volunteers to better the lives of those in need. Goodwill is a nonprofit that provides job training and employment to people in need, and the Downtown Streets Team is a program that focuses on helping homeless citizens integrate back into society by providing stable housing and jobs, while also finding ways to benefit the environment. Both organizations have been tasked with overseeing the program, running it from their respective centers.
“I think the city should try to help to the best of its ability because of its responsibility to keep the residents of San Jose healthy and happy,” said junior Sathvika Anand, a volunteer at Inclusive World, a program that assists people with different disabilities. “It’s a program that would really help with that.”
Based on a simple application each candidate was required to fill out, the Downtown Streets Team selected 25 workers for the job. The workers’ tasks include picking up trash from the sides of busy roads, allowing them to work toward getting back on their feet by providing them with a steady income. While the job is simple and straightforward, it helps workers build a skill set that will aid a transition back into a stable lifestyle and future jobs.
“I’ve met a lot of homeless people at homeless shelters, and from a lot of the stories I’ve heard, after getting sober after coming out of prison, they didn’t really have many resources to help them get back on their feet,” said senior Rita Chen, one of the two community project chairs in Interact Club. “I think it’s a really good program for them to really be able to restart their lives.”
Nevertheless, the city is still testing out the program to see if it yields fruitful results and makes a positive impact on the homeless community. Funding the program costs around $200,000, with half of the money granted to Goodwill and the other half to the Downtown Streets Team. If the program yields positive results, the city is hoping to expand it and reach more of the homeless community in San Jose.
“It will help get them off their feet, give them a job, provide them with some income so they can possibly do something with themselves and give them hope,” said English teacher Andrew Seike.
As rates of homelessness continue to rise in the community, the Beautify San Jose program works toward combating this issue by providing homeless citizens with stable jobs that will help them in integrating back into society again.