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LA wants to hire the homeless to help pick up trash — will it work?




Homeless people mill around on a Skid Row sidewalk after packing up their tents for the day and before businesses open on May 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Homeless people mill around on a Skid Row sidewalk after packing up their tents for the day and before businesses open on May 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

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Anyone living in L.A. sees it: fast food wrappers, plastic grocery bags and everything else thrown onto the ground instead of in a garbage can.

But trash is more than just a nuisance for residents. The Department of Public Works' Sanitation Bureau receives nearly 200 requests per day to clear up litter, illegal dumping and other debris blocking the streets — and they're running out of staff to do the job.

So, why not hire from a pool of employees in closer proximity: the homeless?

That's the idea behind a pilot program proposed by L.A. City Councilmember Joe Buscaino of District 15.

"It's an innovative solution to one, address the trash issue facing our city, [and] second, gives us opportunity to get the homeless individuals off the streets and provide them with an opportunity to self-sustainability," Buscaino said.

Buscaino's office is working together with Councilmembers Bob Blumenfield and Nury Martinez in what they hope will be a win-win solution after hearing success stories from similar initiatives on the local level.

"Clean Streets, Clean Starts" is one such initiative created by The San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission in Northridge last year.

"It's much more than picking up trash," said Wade Trimmer, director of the Rescue Mission. "It's light landscaping, it's beautifying the community, and what we saw [was] that the community was really rallying and coming around these folks — the grocery stores bringing bottles of water, [the] coffee shop [giving] free breakfasts. It's a community effort, but the really critical piece in that is that all of a sudden people who are marginalized are brought back into community, and that's huge."

Trimmer hopes that a county-wide initiative will create a faster pipeline of opportunities and help residents to see the homeless population as a community with assets — not just a liability.

To hear more about how the "Clean Streets, Clean Starts" program operates, click the blue play button above.