ELK GROVE, Calif. (KTXL) – The city of Elk Grove says they’ve found a way to help keep homeless camps in their jurisdiction clean by paying the people who live there to pick up their garbage.
The city has been handing out $20 grocery store gift cards every two weeks for those who have bagged their garbage up for pickup.
“Anything helps, you know, when you’re truly in this situation. Truly anything helps,” a man who identified himself only as Josh told FOX40.
Josh is one of the dozens who live in homeless camps around Elk Grove who, for the past year, has gotten an extra incentive to pick up after himself.
“You know, the more you clean up, the more the amount is,” Josh said.
“As far as I know we are the first to try this,” said Elk Grove Housing and Public Services Manager Sarah Bontrager.
The city of Elk Grove says by giving out the gift cards it’s saving a lot of taxpayer money. Before, the city says each homeless camp cleanup could cost around $1,000.
“So in a month, we could be spending $10,000, and now in a year we’ve spent less than $10,000,” Bontrager told FOX40.
Those grocery gift cards cannot be used to buy alcohol or cigarettes.
Elk Grove police officers who help distribute the trash bags and run the program say it has also helped them build stronger connections with the city’s homeless community.
“We go there, they trust us, they’re willing to help us,” said Homeless Outreach Officer Jennifer McCue. “They work hard, they even run around and help us load up the trucks.”
So far, the program only pays those who live in homeless camps, not those living in cars or on the streets.
However, the city says it’s been very successful keeping those camps much cleaner.
“I’ve seen a huge difference. The amount of trash we had prior at encampments was just huge,” McCue told FOX40.
In fact, it’s been so successful that other cities and jurisdictions have contacted Elk Grove wondering how they can adopt a similar program.
And Josh told FOX40 it’s nice to have the place where he lives cleaned up every other week.
“I’m grateful just for them doing it. You know what I mean? A lot of people probably wouldn’t even do that, so it’s cool that Elk Grove stepped their game up,” he said.
Elk Grove police told FOX40 that through this program they have even gotten some unhoused people back into housing.