After watching a TED Talk video about a program in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that pays homeless individuals to pick up street trash, Kevin Barber decided to start a similar system in his own city.
“It just looked really simple, and the statistics were staggering,” Barber said to CNN.
San Diego has the country’s fourth-largest homeless population, and Barber wanted to assist the homeless community in some way. The teenager and his mother contacted the city government and proposed to start a program that pays homeless individuals to help clean the streets.
The initiative, called “Wheels of Change,” pays its workers $11.50 per hour. Multiple times each week, the program picks up eight to 10 workers from San Diego’s homeless shelters and transports them to locations in need of trash pick up.
“To give back means a lot to me because they have given so much to me,” participant Susan Graham said.
While the program is in its incipient stages, hopefully it will expand to provide consistent employment and be able to assist more individuals in the city’s homeless population. Barber is already thinking about doing so.
“Our goal is to get another van and have it go more days of the week, helping as many people as we can,” he said.
City programs that allow homeless individuals steady jobs can enable them to move off the streets.