Collaboration employs homeless to paint and clean up City parks.
Although homelessness is a concern for many local cities, including Chula Vista, a unique collaboration between the City and the Work for Hope rehabilitation program has offered a source of hope to many homeless individuals. The partnership employs vetted homeless individuals to paint City park restrooms, picnic gazebos and benches.
Work for Hope participants are paid cash during a three-day work week and offered vocational rehabilitation training, life skills instructions, and assistance with transportation, job readiness and possible housing. Since its inception in Chula Vista two years ago, Work for Hope has helped secure stable employment and housing for 27 individuals.
Initial funding was provided through a Kaiser Foundation grant secured by McAlister Institute, who worked closely with the Chula Vista Police Department HOT (Homeless Outreach Team) and now through the Parks Ranger Division’s OPERATION PRIDE, selected homeless individuals were offered employment as a way to reintroduce them to the work force. Once that grant was exhausted, McAlister helped the City obtain additional funding from the Lucky Duck Foundation. Seeing the value and the positive impact the program had on the community, the City’s Housing Division allocated $150,000 of Community Development Block Grant funds to help cover expenses for these two programs allowing the beautification of the City to continue.
The CVPD HOT members, led by Lt. Henry Martin, include Sgt. Ernie Pinedo, Officer Hugo Cardenas, Officer Fred Dominguez, Park Ranger Program Manager Sam Alzubaidi, Park Ranger Supervisor Frank Herrera, and a trained member from PERT (Psychiatric Emergency Response Team). The group meets every Wednesday with their community partners to discuss new homeless encampments, people they have encountered and how to best address the issues.
Other CVPD HOT community partners include the City’s Housing Division, Alpha Project, San Diego Family Health Center, Community Through Hope, Bay View Hospital, Scripps Hospital, South Bay Community Services, Veterans Affairs, South Bay Pioneers, East County Transitional Living Center, South Bay Guidance Center, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, McAlister Institute and Labor Finders.
The Work for Hope employees have painted 76 Chula Vista interior park restrooms with plans to have the exterior painting scheduled soon as well as other beautification projects. To date, their contribution has saved the City over $92,000. “This effort would not be possible without the supervising effort of McAlister Institute. We are very pleased to assist some of our homeless population in obtaining gainful employment while beautifying our City at the same time,” said Park Ranger Manager Sam Alzubaidi.
A new clean-up program will be implemented soon in Chula Vista with the assistance of the Alpha Project which will bring on two full-time employees to manage the program. “Alpha Project has assisted our HOT members with case management in addition to clean-up efforts,” stated Sgt. Pinedo. “Their support has been invaluable to the success of our homeless outreach.”
Chula Vista’s Public Works Department has been instrumental in assisting Operation Pride by providing heavy duty equipment in special clean-up areas. The Community Services Department has provided funding for painting materials as well.
From January through August 2020, Chula Vista Park Rangers have removed 139,153 pounds – or nearly 70 tons – of trash and 931 shopping carts from various locations throughout the City