Redwood City to recruit homeless for downtown beautification

in Community/Featured/Headline

Redwood City is set to implement a program that recruits homeless people to help clean up and beautify downtown on a volunteer basis while receiving a non-cash stipend for basic needs and developing job skills.

The proposal to fund a two-year Downtown Streets Team pilot program at a cost of $378,664 per year appears on the City Council’s agenda at Tuesday’s meeting.

The Downtown Streets Team, Inc. model (website here) invites members of the Redwood City’s homeless population to work collaboratively on beautification projects. Those who show dedication and leadership skills can move up the ranks to become team leaders and supervisors.

In return, “Team Members receive a non-cash stipend to help cover their basic needs, while taking advantage of our case management and employment services to find housing and a job,” according to The Downtown Streets Team. “Our ultimate goal is to transition Team Members into employment because having a job restores hope and opens the door to other opportunities. Our model is structured to be a one-year transitional program into permanent housing and employment.”

In March, Redwood City council directed staff to develop pilot programs in response to results from the One Day Homeless Count and Survey in January that counted 221 unsheltered individuals in Redwood City, the highest number in the county. Existing resources are inadequate in assisting chronically homeless individuals, city staff said. Along with the Downtown Streets Team program, city staff is also proposing to implement a Housing Locator Assister Pilot program.

City staff called the Downtown Streets Team model “promising.”

“The Downtown Streets Team model has successfully assisted chronically homeless individuals to transition into long-term employment and housing in other communities,” city staff states in the agenda report.

Last month, council approved a Letter of Intent to launch the two-year pilot program starting in September. Since then, Downtown Streets Team, Inc. has already begun the preliminary planning and recruiting of homeless individuals.

“It is expected that Downtown Streets Volunteer Team Members will be in the community providing clean up services in October 2019,” staff said.

Staff is recommending a two-year pilot so there’s enough time to evaluate its effectiveness.