Bill would pay homeless to pick up trash, work on other beautification projects

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OLYMPIA, Wash. — People struggling with homelessness may soon have more opportunities to work in Washington.

A bill proposed in the state legislature, SB 5261, would help homeless people find work picking up trash, weeding and other community outreach projects.

Participants would be paid the state minimum wage – $12-an-hour. They would also have easy access to affordable housing, addiction help, and other services.

The bill would also remove typical barriers such as stringent background checks and permanent housing to secure a job with the program.

Three cities – two on the west side of the state and one on the east side – would be part of the jobs pilot program. The state would match money with city funds up to $250,000.

Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, is the author of the bill. He said the proposal is modeled after successful programs across the West Coast.

“I think the state has a role in helping to create opportunities for folks to get up on their feet so they can become eventually self-sufficient,” Zeiger said. “That should be our goal.”

Money for the pilot program would be allocated in the state budget. Zeiger said to solve the homelessness crisis, the state needs to prioritize mental health, affordable housing, and employment.

“Very significantly it allows people to have a sense of meaning and dignity and do productive work,” Zeiger said. “No these aren’t long-term jobs were talking about, but it’s a foot in the door to useful employment.”

Zeiger described the jobs as “clean-up type” work.

The pilot program would expire in 2022. Each city would submit a report to the state upon completion of the pilot program.

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