San Diego

This crew collected 2 million pounds of trash in Downtown San Diego in less than a year

The city’s “enhanced hot spot” program removed more than 2 million pounds of waste from areas near and around homeless encampments.

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Misty Fusco starts her day as a co-compliance officer for the San Diego Environmental Services division while most people are still asleep.

“6:00 I get to the office,” Fusco said. “6:15, we have a meeting. 6:30, I call the guys and say, ‘Hey, are you guys ready to go?’”

Then, they’re on the road, starting at 17th Street and working their way up and down downtown alleyways.

Combing the city blocks every day the past year, the only thing Fusco’s gotten to know better than those streets are the people who live there.

“I get to talk to people every single day and give them trash bags and, you know, connect with them a little bit to let them know that they are people,” Fusco said. “We're not just here to take the trash and just move on like they don't mean anything.”

She’s part of the city’s “enhanced hot spot” program. It’s a city-wide initiative to keep the streets clean.

Since last September, crews removed more than 1,000 tons, that's 2 million pounds, of waste from areas near and around homeless encampments. That amount adds up to nearly 4.5 times the weight of the Statue of Liberty.

Franklin Coopersmith, interim deputy director of the Clean SD Division Environmental Services, said he’s happy the program is getting everything it needs to thrive.

“I want people to realize that there are responsible people out here,” Coppersmith said. “Hopefully, you see we find piles out here because these people know that we are coming by and rather than having the waste scattered all around, they will collect it and put it in a single spot.”

Fusco flinched at the thought of what the streets would look like without their efforts.

“Oh, my goodness, it would look terrible, and it would be a safety and a health hazard,” she said. “We have children down here that go to school right down the street. So I think we're doing a great job. It's America's Finest City. We want it beautiful. We’re going to keep it beautiful.”

The hot spot program costs about $1.5 million in the city’s general budget.

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