SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A pilot program in Sacramento is cleaning the streets and giving the homeless work – and a second chance.
Most days, you can find Walter Mullins in the River District clearing streets alongside tent encampments.READ MORE: Stagg High Stabbing Suspect Anthony Gray Ordered To Undergo Mental Evaluation
“The ones that want to work come to us all the time,” he said.
He knows their struggle. About eight months ago, his unemployment led him to the streets.
“It’s just different,” Mullins said. “It’s not secured. It’s not safe.”
When he saw people cleaning around the district, he asked for a job.
“Programs like this are possible because people believe and people are willing to take a risk,” said Jenna Abbott, executive director of the River District.
Last year, Abbott began talking to the City of Sacramento about how could they address homelessness while keeping the business district clean. The pair partnered with the real estate firm 29th Street Capital to cover payroll and overhead expenses while buying vehicles and equipment to hire six unhoused people.READ MORE: Boosted Californians Getting COVID At Twice The Rate Of Those Vaccinated But Not Boosted
The crew’s pay ranges from $15 to $18 per hour. The jobs program was launched last June. The city says at least two employees found affordable housing.
After Tuesday’s city council meeting, other business districts expressed interest in implanting a similar program. The program is exploring ways of doing a citywide rollout.
“They’re ready for a job,” said Gregg Fishman, a spokesperson for the city’s Dept. of Community Response. “They’re anxious. They want to have that feeling of accomplishment, that feeling of purpose.”
That feeling of purpose can save someone. Abbott says one employee had reached a breaking point before applying.
“He said that he was considering the alternative and being able to have employment made him feel like a man again,” she said.
Having an income has given this small team hope. Mullins recently bought a van. He’s working on getting out of a shelter.MORE NEWS: Applications Now Open For $10K Grants For Sacramento Artists
“Progress is slow, but it happens,” Mullins said.