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Defender of the homeless population says the California initiative could work in Winnipeg

A city in California is sharing its unique plan to help homeless people in the hope that it will spread elsewhere.

Elk Grove city utility manager Sarah Bontrager told 680 CJOB that the project has been a huge success so far – and has completely changed the tone of the interactions between city workers and the homeless population of Elk Grove .

“We go out and hand out trash bags, and then we go out two weeks later and if the people living in the camps pack their own trash, then they get a $ 20 gift card that can be used in one of the supermarkets or dollar stores ”Said Bontrager.

“Previously, when people saw our evangelism officers coming, they wouldn’t be very excited … but now they are very excited – they have their garbage all bagged, sometimes they help us load it in the truck, and then they receive the gift card. “

Bontrager said the initiative also represents significant savings from paying city officials to clean things up – which used to cost more than $ 1,000 each time they left.

When the program was launched, she said, some believed it would encourage more homeless people to migrate to the city, but it has not been the case so far.

Al Wiebe, an advocate for the homeless population of Winnipeg, told 680 CJOB that a similar initiative could work here, with some adjustments.

“I think it’s a good idea – but I always say that when I do homelessness training, give people money. When you give people gift cards, it means you don’t trust them with money – that’s the kind of implication, “said Wiebe.

“It empowers people – they are doing something positive, they are paid for it and that is always a good thing. The biggest victim of homeless people is the lack of self-respect, self-worth and dignity. “

Wiebe said he is currently involved in the Main Street Project’s efforts to beautify the area around the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority building, and that a subsidy has been applied to this includes providing compensation to people who help clean up.

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