SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — San Jose launched a “Cash for Trash” pilot program Thursday that will pay homeless residents for picking up trash and cleaning homeless encampments in the city.

The incentive program will pay $4 per bag of trash, for a total of $20 per collection, of litter along creeks, roadways, and other areas near homeless encampments. Participants would be paid via programmable and reloadable debit cards through a partnership with Mastercard.

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The program directs the City Manager to measure the impact of the program in reducing visual blight and trash moving into waterways and storm drains.

San Jose is using $50,000 from COVID relief funds in addition to $60,000 a year for three years from Santa Clara Valley Water in the form of a grant to pay for the program. The city was also exploring other potential funding sources, including other city sources and philanthropic contributions.

During a press conference Thursday at Roosevelt Park, Mayor Sam Liccardo and city leaders officially launched the pilot program under the BeautifySJ initiative launched in 2017.

“To be able to provide a pathway for our homeless residents, our neighbors, to be part of the solution to be able to help us clean the community and beautify our city in a way that makes us all collectively proud,” said Liccardo. “It tells our homeless residents, that we see you, and you are a part of our community, and we know you want to be part of the solution with us working together.”

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City officials told KPIX 5 that there’s more to just cleaning up encampments, it’s also about building bridges.

“So as we build that trust and that partnership with our encampment residents, it allows them to kind do a warm handoff to the next rung,” said Olympia Williams, program manager for Beautify SJ. “So, now we can get our outreach workers, social work, behavior health, mental health to come in.”

Tony Dake has been living in an encampment for about two years. “There was a lot of trash, and there’s still a lot,” he said.

Liccardo told KPIX 5 that other cities are looking at launching similar programs. “Austin, West Sacramento, Chattanooga, they all are partnering with Mastercard,” the mayor said.

Similar programs are operating in other Northern California cities, including Palo Alto, San Francisco, Berkeley, and Redwood City through the nonprofit Downtown Streets Team.

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