Sacramento County Could Vote to Pay Homeless for Cleaning Up American River Parkway

SACRAMENTO -- After six months of being on the streets, a once registered nurse called the life she and her delivery driver husband were living "very humiliating."

She didn't want to show her face as she described how their stability slipped away.

"My husband became ill and had to quit his job. I was in kidney failure," she told FOX40. "We both became ill. We just got behind on rent and everything."

Homelessness happens to a lot of people for a lot of reasons.

"We ended up losing his SSI, losing the house, losing everything. I mean literally everything," said Gina Kathary, who has been homeless for 10 years.

There's no one way to pull people out of circumstances like that for the long-term but with an expected "yes" vote Tuesday, Sacramento County's Board of Supervisors intends to try to pay the homeless to pick up trash along the American River Parkway.

Last year, Sacramento County leaders say they cleared out 3,600 homeless camps and had to pick up 1,600 tons of trash as a result.

"While they're working that 10-week program with the job, we're going to be putting them through a certification training program," said Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost. "And they'll be learning all about construction trade industries and earning certificates. And with that certificate, they'll take that and they'll qualify for an internship."

The hope is those internships lean into permanent jobs.

The $387,000 price tag came from the county's Parks Department budget.

PRIDE Industries would be the contracted administrator of the year-long pilot program. With its reputation for helping match those with disabilities with the right job training for their skills, they have been getting good reviews even before the idea has been approved.

One critique of the plan is that the pay scale detailed in the board's agenda shows homeless workers set to make $18 less per hour than what a PRIDE Industries employee will for what's listed as the same job, shown as "debris removal service." That's an hourly wage of $12 versus $30.

The PRIDE staff role is not listed on the scale as supervisorial but there is supposed to be one staff person showing a crew of five candidates how to pick up trash.

Supervisor Frost says with add-ons to the training, internships and job placement, the opportunity is much more than a paycheck.

"They're connected to rehab and services, and they're already staying in a temporary shelter. So at the end of the day, this is a really good deal at $12 an hour," Frost said.

Last October, West Sacramento started a "Streets Team" of homeless workers to clean the city's streets. Since then, they've picked up 14,480 thousand gallons of trash, one 40-gallon bag at a time.

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