San Jose launches pilot program to employ the homeless

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The capital of Silicon Valley is known as one of the wealthiest places in the world, yet it's also home to a growing homeless problem. However, city officials are launching a new program that aims to put dozens of homeless people to work as part of a plan to help beautify the city.

"We need to change the narrative from one where we blame or dismiss the homeless as part of the problem, to one which where we're embracing opportunities to engage homeless residents as part of the solution," said Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Homeless individuals will be able to apply for a part-time job through Goodwill and the Downtown Streets Team, making $15 per hour to help clean up streets where trash has been a problem. The program will initially start with 25 participants.

"Many homeless individuals want to work if they're given the opportunity, they're willing to help our community, and we need to provide them a path to self-sufficiency, and these transitional jobs will do that," said Liccardo.

City officials say this isn't meant to be a quick fix, but rather a chance for the homeless to build their skills as they try to get back on their feet and into the workforce.

"I'm hopeful for a new start, to regain what I had before, start a family, get my life right and never go back to the streets again," said Salinas native Manuel Urbina, who applied for the program Thursday afternoon.

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Homeless advocates believe that while it's a step in the right direction, they're hopeful the region will come up with bigger-scale ideas to help solve the crisis.

"We need these types of programs. Public work for people that don't have jobs that pay a living wage, and we don't need a few of them, we need a massive amount of them," said San Jose State University professor Scott Myers-Lipton.

The program will cost around $200,000 and will be funded with money that was originally set aside by the city council to help with litter abatement.

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