Tacoma program is paying city’s homeless to clean up trash and debris

Apr 7, 2021, 5:15 AM
Tacoma homeless trash clean up...
A new program will pay Tacoma's homeless to clean up trash and debris. (KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

A Tacoma program that pays the city’s homeless population to clean up trash and debris starts this week. That’s all part of a larger plan from the councilmember behind the initiative to clean up the city and provide the unhoused with a path toward a better future.

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The program was spearheaded by Tacoma City Councilmember Robert Thoms, paying out as much as $13 an hour for trash pickup work, and eventually, even landscaping and beautification of the city’s parks and green spaces.

Compared to other homeless services, it’s relatively affordable with just a $60,000 price tag for the pilot program running through December. But more than that, Thoms sees it as something that engages directly with Tacoma’s unhoused population.

“Instead of other programs that are done to homeless people, this is one being done by and for homeless people,” he told MyNorthwest.

The program — operating in tandem with homeless advocacy group Valeo Vocation — doesn’t have a set goal in terms of the number of people it hopes to hire. Rather, the hope is to “spend down the money as fast as possible.”

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“The best case scenario to me is that we have more people than we can afford subscribing to the program,” Thoms noted.

Should that happen, Thoms plans to petition the city to continue funding the program past the end of the pilot, and keep it in place for anywhere between another six months to three years.

Through that continuation, he sees it as something that can give Tacoma’s homeless population valuable entry-level job experience, provide regular pay that “builds confidence toward pathways forward,” and potentially connect them with other crucial services once they’re in the door.

As for the longer-term future, Thoms believes there could be any number of practical applications.

“In some places it just depends on your imagination,” he said. “I think it’s just a matter of how far we want to take it.”

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Tacoma program is paying city’s homeless to clean up trash and debris