Homeless grant will fund Guerneville street clean-up

Homeless people will get hired to help cleanup downtown Guerneville’s streets this summer in exchange for meals, bus rides and movie tickets.

Sonoma County supervisors agreed to spend approximately $47,000 last week to fund a plan to recruit up to two-dozen homeless residents to work in teams cleaning the town streets twice a week.

“I hope to be part of it,” said Anthony Golden, a Guerneville homeless resident who has voluntarily helped clean Guerneville’s streets in the past.

So far he hasn’t heard about the new cleanup project, but he would be willing to sign up, said Golden, who was shoveling gravel last Sunday out in front of the old Guerneville church on First Street. “I guess the money has to go through channels.”

The Guerneville “CleanStreets” project approved last week will enlist the homeless to participate in downtown Guerneville cleanup events in exchange for vouchers for transportation, movie passes, meals “and other incentives,” said Sonoma County Community Development Commission Executive Director Margaret Van Vliet in her report to the Board of Supervisors. “The program will engage unsheltered persons by increasing participation in the larger lower Russian River community, ultimately changing the perception of community members towards homeless persons.”

The grant proposal, from Clean River Alliance working under the auspices of the Russian Riverkeeper, the non-profit Healdsburg-based environmental watchdog program, will enable Chris Brokate of the Clean River Alliance to recruit and coordinate weekly teams of up to six people to pick up trash and do other downtown cleanup chores. The cleanup will target downtown streets from the Highway 116 Bridge to Mill Street and from First Street to Fifth Street.

Clean River Alliance will recruit an estimated 15 to 24 homeless residents and train them in “safe and effective trash collection techniques, and complete 60 (twice weekly) town trash cleanups,” said Van Vliet in her report.

The homeless participants in the cleanup program will learn “soft job skills and will be engaged in housing and shelter services,” said Van Vliet.

Brokate and his Clean River Alliance effort, working under the auspices of the non-profit Russian Riverkeeper, got $100,000 earlier this year for a one-year Clean Camp and Education Program to facilitate homeless camp cleanups along the river and provide homeless camp residents with advice on how to be neater campers.

“Establishing relationships with unsheltered homeless persons offers Clean River Alliance the opportunity to provide environmental education while engaging homeless persons in debris cleanup efforts,” said Van Vliet’s report.

“These activities reduce the amount of waste in the river, engage the homeless population with services, build community relations between homeless and housed populations, and support the broader effort to move people towards shelter and housing opportunities,” said Van Vliet.

Also last week, the Board of Supervisors approved a total of $318,000 in lower Russian River grant funds targeting homelessness issues mainly in the Guerneville area.

Social Advocates For Youth (SAY) will get $70,000 to expand its Lower Russian River Housing Services program. West County Community Services (WCCS) was awarded $176,915 for rapid rehousing program.

West County Health Centers (WCHC) was awarded an additional $30,000 to support the training of their access coordinator team to aid people experiencing homelessness in the lower Russian River area.