California city paying homeless to clean their campsites

ELK GROVE, Calif. — A California city’s pilot program to pay homeless residents to clean up around the areas where they live is showing success.

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The city of Elk Grove started the program to quell complaints police officers were getting about the amount of trash near homeless encampments, CNN reported.

“We got together to talk about homelessness, and from my perspective I wanted to build better relationships with people who were experiencing homelessness, and he wanted to address some of the complaints that come to his officers,” Sarah Bontrager, housing and public services manager for the city, told CNN.

They decided to incentivize cleanliness.

“We distribute trash bags, and we go out every two weeks to pick up the trash, and if they have it bagged, they are eligible for up to $20 in gift cards to a grocery store,” Bontrager said.

The gift cards can be used on anything except cigarettes and alcohol.

The program has built a bridge with the homeless population, Bontrager said. Some participants have been able to find housing. Many others have been thankful to not have to rely on shelters or other groups for items they can pick out themselves.

It has also saved the city money. Nearly $10,000 of its $15,000 budget has been spent. Bontrager estimated the cost is about $1,000 each time the city has to send a crew to clean the area.