SJ campaign gives homeless jobs, cleaner creek

SAN JOSE, Calif.

The problem is obvious -- trash lines San Jose's Coyote Creek for miles. Much of it is generated by the hundreds of homeless who camp out there. The Environmental Protection Agency, with help from local groups, plans to hire the homeless to do the clean-up.

Jim Kenny has lived near the creek for four years. The prospect of a job and a cleaner environment intrigues him.

"It'll help an awful lot of people get off their petunias and say, 'Hey, this is where I live. This program's going to help me get back into the swing of things,'" said Kenny.

One of the agencies involved -- Destination: Home -- believes the approach will foster hope among the homeless.

"It's an opportunity to be able to reconnect with folks and offer a partnership in terms of restoring the environment and helping them find housing," said Destination: Home executive director Jennifer Loving.

How much the homeless can earn hasn't been announced. Almost $1 million in funding is coming from public and private sources. A long-time homeless advocate Pastor Scott Wagers, from Cham Deliverance Ministry, says the program holds promise.

"A job does give hope and so jobs are an integral part of peoples' psychological well-being on the streets, and so you give them that empowerment, they work toward a goal, housing is the ultimate solution, but having a job temporarily is a good start," said Pastor Wagers.

Kenny, who used to work in financial services, thinks the program will succeed only if some of the homeless jump in and lead by example. When asked if he was going to be that person, Kenny said, "Sold! Yes."

The clean-up campaign starts next month and it will be a big job with all the trash along the creek, not to mention all the mosquitoes and the poison oak.

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