The convergence of littering and the homeless has come together in a positive way at Coyote Creek in San Jose, CA. Since last October, a group that’s been dubbed the Coyote Creek Homeless Stream Stewards have been able to remove over 24 tons worth of trash from the area.
The effort, while still in the early stages, has resulted in more than $5,000 worth of private donations being used to purchase gift cards and provide items for what’s known as a “trash raffle.” The upcoming raffle in September will give away two bikes.
Given the transient nature of homelessness, the number of those taking part in the effort tends to fluctuate. That number usually doesn’t go above 20, though those take take part are fueled by both the chance to win $10 gift cards and also simply live in cleaner surroundings.
The idea was developed by Amanda Fukamoto, who has camped near Coyote Creek for years. During that time span, she noticed that not only the homeless were leaving trash but also those dumping illegally.
One of Fukamoto’s potential solutions to the issue would be to strike a deal with the homeless. In exchange for living in so-called “tiny houses” at Coyote Creek, the homeless would continue keeping things clean in that particular area. Those houses would only be approximately 350 square feet and could be moved, if necessary, since they’ll be atop wheels.
Fukamoto sees the project as a chance to give people down on their luck some dignity.
Huffington Post recently released a piece advocating for a greater focus on mental health care, especially to the homeless in San Francisco and elsewhere.
Homelessness in San Francisco, and in so many communities up and down the West Coast, is an epidemic, and it’s one we’re not dealing with effectively. As tech companies come into San Francisco, more and more people are being priced out of their homes. Some of these people leave the city for more affordable communities, and some of these people become homeless. That does not mean these people are not equal citizens, but it does mean that our system has failed them and that we ought to support them however we are able to.
Part of that means realizing that mental health is an issue that is disproportionately relevant to those who might be homeless for many reasons. Many of the people who become homeless become so after years of untreated mental health issues that finally manifested themselves into a person’s inability to maintain a job and housing. Many people develop mental health issues while homeless as research suggests that the homeless are more likely to be victims of crime than the general public. These aren’t people looking for an easy buck on the street. These are people who often need help from the system in order to get up.
We can do more for our homeless population, especially as it relates to the mental health care available to them, in San Francisco and everywhere else too.
Sometimes, all it takes is a simple act of kindness to turn people around. Other times, a generous donation from a philanthropist can work wonders. Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft (maybe you’ve heard of them?) announced a $1 million donation to Compass Housing Alliance, a nonprofit based out of Seattle, WA. This large donation will go to construct new houses for the city’s homeless population, and allow people to get back on their feet. Large companies like Amazon and Google have a long history of helping to finance a solution to the homelessness problem in their cities, and Paul Allen joins them.
Compass plans to use the generous amount of money by constructing new temporary buildings for the homeless. The units, called “transitional homes” by the nonprofit directors, resemble large metal shipping containers, and are meant as a sort of step up from tents. The prefabricated structures are much cheaper and faster for Compass Housing Alliance to create, as they’re constructed off-site and lowered into place by construction equipment. The executive director of Compass Janet Pope hopes that the homes work out, as they would take a significant workload off of the nonprofit’s builders.
This donation must definitely come as a relief to the organizations attempting to combat the homeless epidemic in Seattle. Here’s hoping that the model is a huge success, and more people can find help through their services.