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San Jose to pay homeless for trash cleanup

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San Jose has teamed up with the Downtown Streets Team and Goodwill to offer homeless people jobs cleaning up trash and debris at “hotspots” near freeways in the city.

The city will be funding the jobs with a $200,000 grant, Mayor Sam Liccardo announced at a news conference Thursday. The minimum-wage jobs will begin at $15 an hour and about two dozen people will be selected for the first cohort in November.

Approximately 40 garbage hotspots are mapped out near U.S. Highway 101 and Interstate Highways 880 and 680, in addition to major thoroughfares like Capitol Expressway and Story, Tully and Senter Roads.

Liccardo said homeless encampments are too often blamed for garbage problems and debris buildup, even though trash comes from a variety of sources.

Liccardo said:

“Today we’re going to change the narrative from dismissing our homeless residents as part of the problem, to embracing the opportunity for them to part of the solution, both for themselves and for our community.”

Mercy Wong, 63, has been searching for housing while living on the street in downtown San Jose for about five months. She’s currently preparing her application for the transitional jobs program, and said the county helped her put together and print out her resume.

She’s lived in San Jose for 24 years, and said she loves the Downtown Streets Team. She hopes to be one of the first workers in the pilot program.

Wong said:

“It really helps us to be strong with ourselves, because I have a very low self esteem … They help me lift myself up and be responsible, be a good worker and be just who I am.”

Groups will work four to five hours a day every one to two weeks and the program hopes to create a pipeline for full-time work and stable paychecks.

The program, part of San Jose’s #BeautifySJ initiative, received large discounts on two trucks from Normandin Chrysler Jeep Dodge. The city’s transportation and park departments will oversee the cleanup work.

The Downtown Streets Team operates across the Bay Area, including in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Hayward, Oakland, San Rafael and Novato.

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