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Homeless help clean downtown streets
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The homeless work program has taken it upon themselves to clean up downtown Turlock’s streets, picking up trash in alleyways, behind businesses and in dumpster areas. - photo by Photo Contributed

Turlock’s downtown streets are sparkling thanks to a group of homeless individuals who are doing the most to give back to their community, taking pride in their town through hard work and local support.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the recently-formed homeless work program team takes to downtown Turlock’s blocks to pick up trash, clean up messes left overnight by others and tend to the alleyways and dumpster areas that are often overrun with debris. There have been three clean-up days so far, organized by the group themselves through a completely organic, grassroots campaign to beautify the city in which they reside — home or no home.

“It’s not a [Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association] program; nobody is running it, and it’s the homeless individuals who have decided where to meet and at what times,” TDPOA Executive Director Molly Amant said. “We’re just out there to help and to get the word out for them connection-wise, and to get them anything they need and make sure they stay safe.”

The homeless work program started last week after a group of around 15 homeless Turlockers showed up during a special meeting about homelessness at City Hall earlier in the month, informing the City Council they’d like to start cleaning up the community.  Local community members, including Amant, took it upon themselves to reach out to local community members and businesses for donations of trash bags and lunches in order to make the clean-up days possible. 

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What originally began with about 15 members has since grown to about 30 homeless individuals who make up the recently-formed homeless work program. - photo by Photo Contributed

The group has grown from the original 15 to now about 30 strong, Amant said, and the work has made a difference already.

“They did a really good job cleaning from Main Street to Ninth Street — it was a mess and they cleaned that really, really well,” Amant said.

The group has also cleaned up areas behind La Perla Tapatia, alleyways downtown and all of the dumpster enclosures in the downtown core so far, and there’s more to come.

“The one thing I’ve heard most from the community is that it’s really nice to see these people taking pride in themselves, and I feel like the community is going to come together and help these people who want to help themselves,” Amant said. “They don’t want a handout; they want a hand up.”

Already, local businesses and community members are helping the homeless work program with lunches during their work days, supplies for cleaning and even jobs. TOGO’s Sandwiches, Cost Less Food Co., Rustic Roots and Woods Furniture have donated lunches, while Mayor Amy Bublak has provided donuts and community members like Liz Padilla have donated other food items.

One of the main goals of the work program is for homeless individuals to prove they’re employable, Amant said. On Thursday, eight people in the program have job interviews with the local electrical union. Community members have provided the individuals with clothing and haircuts so that they can look their best for the new opportunity.

“We want them to be able to go into the interviews with their best foot forward,” Amant said.

Moving forward, the homeless work program will continue cleaning the streets three times a week. Aman expects the program to grow in size and continue into the foreseeable future, she said.

“Anytime anyone can help out and make the town look better, it’s great for the community. It’s a win-win, in my opinion,” she said.

Those interested in donating bags, water or lunches to the homeless work program can contact Amant at 209-202-4323 or Padilla at 408-648-8122.