King County kicks off program to pay homeless to clean up region’s parks

Sep 29, 2021, 12:36 PM
King County homeless park cleanup...
King County's new program will look to hire 400 homeless individuals. (King County)
(King County)

An initiative to hire homeless individuals in King County to help restore the region’s parks and trails is now off and running, with Executive Dow Constantine visiting with crews working in White Center on Wednesday.

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The initiative is housed within the Jobs and Housing Program, having held recruitment events at emergency shelters to offer jobs on the King County Parks Beautification Crew. Members of the team are offered between $20 and $25 an hour as well as housing support, as part of a larger effort to offer hundreds of people a path out of homelessness.

“Jobs and Housing means that some 400 people will be able to have steady work, a roof overhead, and the chance to work with job coaches and case managers to really put together a plan to move forward to self sufficiency,” Constantine told KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show. “This is what I think our residents want for people: a humane solution, and one that cleans up the streets.”

The crews will work in five King County Parks in the weeks to come, including Five Mile Lake Park in Federal Way, White Center Heights Park in unincorporated King County, and Marymoor Park in Redmond, among others. Work will include landscaping, field maintenance, trail building, construction, demolition, removal of weeds, restoration, and planting.

Constantine believes the program is a win-win, as an initiative designed around crucial work in King County parks, while also providing gainful employment to those who need it most.

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“We want to employ people in this and get them on their way back to really having agency over their lives, and being able to have the dignity and the self-perspective of being able to afford to take care of themselves,” he noted.

The program will also eventually create other jobs, thanks to federal COVID-19 relief funding given to the county, including cleaning and sanitizing vehicles and equipment for the King County Fleet Services Division, caring for animals at Regional Animal Services, and cleaning up litter.

A similar program kicked off in Tacoma earlier in 2021, paying up to $13 an hour to homeless individuals for trash pickup, landscaping, and beautification of parks and green spaces.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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King County kicks off program to pay homeless to clean up region’s parks