A pilot program that employs homeless people to clean up trash on Poplar Beach and the coastal trail in Half Moon Bay is expanding.
The City Council at a meeting this week unanimously approved a one-year extension of the program that will still focus on the above locations as well as the neighboring community. The program is funded by the city and managed by nonprofit Abundant Grace.
“We think this is an incredible opportunity to both clean up our community and build life skills and an employment history for folks,” said Public Works Director John Doughty.
The council couldn’t agree more.
“The [program] produces a lot of benefit for the community, a lot of people who live here see it and appreciate it — I’ve heard lots of really good things — it creates connections between the unsheltered population and other people in the community, it benefits the people who pick up [the trash] and who see it clean so there’re huge amounts of benefits here,” said Councilwoman Debbie Ruddock.
The revised scope of work includes segments of Kelly, Poplar, Pilarcitos, Heskin, First, Second, Third and Railroad avenues; Filbert and Myrtle streets as well as Oak Avenue Park. There was talk of expanding to Redondo Beach and Miramontes Point Beach as well as Main Street, but those areas will be left out of the scope of work for now. The workers have spent much of their time cleaning up horse manure on Poplar Beach since the program began in May of 2018, which they will not do moving forward. The city hopes to address horse manure on the beach via a new contract with Sea Horse Ranch, which offers horseback riding on Poplar Beach.
The program is in addition to Public Works cleanup efforts.
The new contract also employs two additional workers per session for a total of five, which is largely why the cost of the program is going up from $59,562 per year to $80,000 per year. Workers will make $18.50 an hour.
Vice Mayor Adam Eisen said much of the trash the program was created to clean up is generated by visitors and he wants to explore grant funding to pay for it. Ruddock said those opportunities will likely present themselves if the program has a track record of success.
“If we can make this a successful program and demonstrate success, I think we position ourselves for outside funding,” she said.
Ruddock also wants to explore educational programs to deter visitors from littering.
“Education has to be a really big piece going forward,” she said. “We can educate people on best practices while visiting here. I want us to spend time communicating and educating people on what we expect as a community and spend resources on that. To me it’s a public health and safety issue. … It’s really not a minor problem, it’s getting worse and it is a legitimate public health and safety issue.”
Cleanups will occur Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday during peak season, which is April through November, and on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday during off-peak season.
In the last year, 838 workers in 161 work sessions have removed 972 bags or 20,000 pounds of trash from Half Moon Bay’s beaches, trails and streets.
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