The Homeless

Sacramento County may soon employ the homeless to clean up the American River Parkway

Watch county crews clean up one homeless man’s vast Parkway horde

Get a behind the scenes look at Sacramento County workers cleaning up one man’s vast homeless camp in the American River Parkway on Thursday, May 31, 2019. The crews removed 575 tons of trash since January.
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Get a behind the scenes look at Sacramento County workers cleaning up one man’s vast homeless camp in the American River Parkway on Thursday, May 31, 2019. The crews removed 575 tons of trash since January.

Sacramento County may soon employ homeless residents to clean up trash and debris on the American River Parkway, as part of an agreement with local employment services provider PRIDE Industries.

Under the contract, scheduled for a vote by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, PRIDE Industries will provide case managers to help enrolled homeless individuals create work schedules, seek training programs and connect with county navigator services.

The program aims to reduce barriers of employment for homeless people, particularly those without access to benefits such as disability or Social Security, as well as address growing concern over the state of the American River Parkway.

“It’s not giving them a fish, it’s teaching them how to fish,” said Supervisor Sue Frost, who said the county has been in talks with PRIDE Industries for about a year.

Running for four 10-week periods, each with 10 homeless recruits, the program will cost the county $387,200, according to the county staff report.

Beyond honing general workplace skills and earning money, each homeless residents will also earn a construction certification through PRIDE by the end of the program, Frost said.

“This is a beta test,” she said. “They can do the work and also get paid and job training … connecting them to that missing link that prevents them (from getting) into a situation where they can pay for a place to live.”

Frost did not know how much each homeless worker would be paid. A representative from PRIDE declined to comment until the contract was approved.

Beyond offering a possible pathway for future employment and housing, the program would be beneficial “for reasons of economy and efficiency,” according to a staff report on the proposed contract.

“Regional Parks has determined additional assistance and quick deployment is necessary to augment current maintenance staff,” the staff report reads. “County staff will have more time to spend on their regular duties preparing the parks for visitors.”

PRIDE Industries, a Roseville-based nonprofit, is the largest employment service for people with disabilities in California. The nonprofit has helped thousands of individuals train for and secure jobs, including at a California hospital for prisoners in Stockton and at Sacramento County Courthouse.

The program is not novel for the Sacramento region: Last year, the city of Sacramento began contracting with Downtown Streets Team to offer gift cards and stipends to homeless residents working as cleanup crews in Sacramento.

Sacramento’s most recent survey of its homeless population indicates more than 3,600 people are living without housing in the county on any given day. This year’s point-in-time count will be conducted this week, with results from the survey to be released later in the year.

“We’re taking a problem and letting people a part of the problem work with us” to solve it, Frost said.

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.


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