Although most people hold homeless people responsible for causing blight and damage to areas where they live, one homeless woman in San Jose is trying to change this perception. Amanda Fukamoto lives in a homeless encampment near Coyote Creek. Since the fall of 2015, she’s handed out trash bags and encouraged the homeless to keep the area clean.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, her efforts appear to be succeeding where other programs failed. A prior program to install trash cans along the waterway was discontinued by the City of San Jose. The city argued the trash cans encouraged the homeless to stay near the creek instead of using city programs and services. Periodic sweeps have been used to get homeless out of the area, and cut down on the problems with litter, but they never brought permanent change.
The issue presents a significant problem for the Santa Clara County Water District. $1 million of the agency’s annual budget has gone to pay for the removal of trash left by homeless people staying on district land.
According to Fukamoto, her goal is to prove homeless people can serve as part of the solution, rather than simply being viewed as the root of the problem. She believes most homeless people are willing to support efforts to keep land around the creek clean. It is her hope the district and the city will allow the homeless to continue to live near the creek, in exchange for their helping with cleanup efforts.