Pilot program pays homeless people to keep downtown encampments clean

SAN DIEGO — More than 2.5 tons of trash has been collected under a new pilot program launched last week to help keep homeless camps in downtown San Diego clean.

The idea was born out of a conversation with volunteer Brian Trotier and a man named Richard who lives along Commercial Street. Trotier has been distributing food to the homeless for over a year through the Lucky Duck Foundation.

It was then that he decided to ask people what else they might need.

“We have nowhere to put our trash, and we continue to be blamed for all the trash,” Trotier said.

That’s when the light bulb went out: why not pay the people who live on the streets to pick up the garbage?

“If we could get a dumpster location for a set number of hours a few times a week, get funding to pay them for pickup, we could find out if it’s actually less expensive for the city,” said he declared.

And that’s exactly what happened last week. Trotier launched Project Triangle with funding from the Lucky Duck Foundation.

“Let’s do a test and learn, and see what the results are here, and put the money behind it to take an idea that has been well thought out and turn it into reality,” said Drew Moser of the Lucky Duck Foundation.

It is a simple program. People living near Commercial and 16th Street can fill a free trash bag, take it to a nearby rented dumpster on Mondays and Thursdays, and they’ll get $2.

“We’re processing over 100 bags of trash a day on average right now,” Trotier said.

He said other unintended benefits are also emerging.

“By taking control of their living environment and being more personally responsible for cleanliness, you’ve actually brought them closer to being ready for services and housing, which of course is what we all want, that’s is for people who want housing, to be housed,” Trotier said.

The pilot program lasts until June 30 and could be adopted further from there.

David H. Henry