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San Diego Homeless People To Earn Minimum Wage Cleaning Trash, Graffiti

Bunk beds line a

Photo by Susan Murphy

Above: Bunk beds line a "Bridge Shelter" near downtown San Diego, which is providing a home for 324 people, Feb. 23, 2018.

The Alpha Project is launching a pilot program this week called Wheels of Change to pay homeless people minimum wage to clean up neighborhoods around San Diego.

A passenger van will pick up eight people at a time from the Alpha Project homeless tent located near downtown, and transport the crew to an area in the city. They will spend the day picking up trash or cleaning graffiti.

“I have no income coming in whatsoever, so this will give me some stuff to get me essentials I need: haircuts, shaves, cause I’m trying to find a job," said Navy veteran Cory Gwynne, who lost his job a couple of years ago and became homeless soon after.

RELATED: More Than 70 Homeless Children Moving Into San Diego's Third Bridge Shelter

Gwynne said getting a chance to earn a paycheck is a dream come true.

“I need to replace my savings that I’ve gone through,” Gwynne said.

Many of the 323 other people living in the city’s large homeless tent said they are also eager to sign up, so they can buy things like bus and trolley passes or start a savings plan.

“They ask me every day: ‘Bob, I just want to do something around here.’ So now we’ll be able to give them a little money to do that,” said Bob McElroy, Alpha Project CEO.

McElroy is hopeful there will also be an outreach component.

“It’s having our folks talk to their folks,” McElroy said. “Their peers that are on the street right now that are maybe a little reluctant to come into any kind of facility to seek help.”

McElroy said his staff will closely monitor to make sure money is not spent on drugs or alcohol.

RELATED: San Diego's Third Bridge Shelter Set To Open This Week

“If you went out and worked on a crew for four or five hours and you come back inebriated, we know you did something bad with that money,” McElroy said. “Our folks know what’s expected of them.”

Private donor Dr. Carolyn Barber, who works for the UC San Diego Department of Emergency Medicine, purchased the van and is providing the initial costs.

Starting out, shifts will be scheduled for five hours a day, three days a week.

The Alpha Project is launching a pilot program this week called Wheels for Change to pay homeless people $10 an hour to clean up neighborhoods around San Diego.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that the Alpha Project will pay minimum wage, which is $11.50 per hour, instead of $10 per hour.


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