San Diego homeless in downtown. Photo by Chris Stone

Homeless people in the city of San Diego will be paid $11.50 an hour to pick up trash and clear brush as part of a program launched Monday.

Transients interested in taking part will be picked up by a van twice a week and driven to a specific site, where they will pick up trash, pull weeds and clear brush for five hours as part of the Alpha Project’s “Wheels for Change” program, according to the city.

Staff will also help connect program participants to services such as housing resources.

The first six months of the program have been funded by a private donor whose name has not been made public.

“This is all about creating more opportunities for homeless individuals to lift themselves out of extreme poverty,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. “Wheels for Change will help restore dignity by allowing people to earn a paycheck and begin to get back on their feet. For many this may be just the chance they need to begin turning their lives around.”

The San Diego program is based on one in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Since the Albuquerque program launched in May 2015, 3,400 homeless people have removed 175,000 pounds of trash and cleaned 600 neighborhood blocks, and 365 participants were connected with employment services to find additional work.

Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, and Lexington, Kentucky, have similar programs.

“We are looking forward to starting this program and giving the clients the ability to make a difference in the local community,” said Bob McElroy, chief executive of the Alpha Project.

— City News Service