Homelessness in San Diego

Pilot Program Pays Homeless to Clean Up Trash in East Village

The Triangle Project is a four month pilot program that pays homeless people who live in a certain neighborhood $2 per bag to throw out their trash twice a week.

NBC Universal, Inc.

A pilot program launched at a homeless encampment in San Diego's East Village is giving residents a chance to earn cash or throwing away trash.

The Triangle Project gives residents living along the sides of Commercial and 16th streets $2 for every bag of trash they toss out.

Brian Trotier is a retired attorney who has been volunteering in the neighborhood for a few years a. He said he came up with the idea after talking to people living in the area.

"What I’m finding is they appreciate being seen, but this is their solution. All I did was figure out the logistics. They expressed a desire to do this, they expressed a frustration about not doing it, but I think we’re going to see some unexpected benefits going into this," Trotier said.

Richard Horton says trash pileup is a big concern for everyone living there.

"We take it to the little garbage can, but they be getting overfull," Horton said.

In the three days since the project launched, Trotier said around 100 bags have been collected every day. Trash collection company EDCO has volunteered a dumpster and is sending a truck to the neighborhood from 9 a.m. to noon every Monday and Thursday to haul the trash to the dump in Miramar.

"One of the things you can do is, if you remove the trash, then they have to see the people, so the general public starts seeing humans not piles of trash," Trotier said.

Trotier hopes that if the program is successful it might cut down the number of days the city needs to do street sweeping in the area. Currently they sweep three days a week, which causes people living on the streets have to move all their belongings from one side of the road to the other while crews clean.

The pilot program is expected to last through June, for now.

Trotier said some who have turned in trash have used their rewards to do laundry. One block of the encampment even went to the grocery store and bought food to host a taco party for their block, he said.

"If you give these people a fighting chance, you’d be amazed," said Horton, wh's been enlisted by Trotier to be a block captain. Block captains spread the word about the Triangle Project to others living in the area.

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