San Jose's Gateway Project hopes to create jobs for the homeless

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- You're going to be seeing a lot of yellow shirts of clean-up crews along downtown San Jose freeway ramps in the weeks ahead. It's a new initiative to clean-up debris while giving the homeless vouchers up to $100 a week for food and rent.

San Jose has nearly 5,000 homeless people according to a recent census. Helping them to find jobs and housing has been challenging. This new program that is about to launch will use teams of homeless volunteers volunteering for the new Gateway Project.

Alan Emmerich was recently evicted from a homeless camp. He's out here trying to turn his life around. He started out removing garbage from a creek.

"I would go down there two, three times a week, and we'd just haul out garbage, and we're talking garbage. I kind of demonstrated my dependability and reliability," said Emmerich.

These teams have been working around San Jose for three years. But the new Gateway Project will focus on freeway ramps. Three companies, Ernst & Young, Tivo and Wells Fargo are the sponsors.

"This is so important to us as we think about the eco-system in San Jose and many of our cities that if the public-private partnerships that are being raised here, that's how we're really going to move the ball forward here," explained Kaliesh Karavadra of Ernst and Young.

This project won't appeal to all the homeless, but for many, it's a path toward self-sufficiency. Job counseling and help with job search are also part of the program.

"Just getting back to being authentic, getting back to being real, being happy, giving back. And that's the best way to feel good about yourself is to be giving," said team leader Nicole Boyd.

"All they want is one more chance, and they want it to be un-judged, so just show up for a meeting or show up your first day, grab a broom and get out there with a bright yellow shirt on and start cleaning your community," said the project's executive director, Eileen Richardson.

The gateway project is expected to bring on six people to start but could expand to as many as 60.
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