Austin expanding program that pays homeless to clean up parks

It has been almost a year since Austin started paying members of the homeless community to help clean up parks, dumping sites and homeless camps. Now, program directors are ready to triple the number of people they employ. 

“Most of the time we are in green spaces, kind of like out in the wilderness, working, picking up trash,” said Chris Baker, executive director of The Other Ones Foundation.  

For people without a place to call home, it can be the beginning of a better life. “24 people have been housed by this whole process and I think that's pretty cool. That's 24 people who would be living on the streets if not for this program,” Baker said.  

The City of Austin partners with The Other Ones Foundation to find people looking to make a little money and get back on their feet. People are paid $15 an hour to go places most people try to avoid and do things most people won't. 

“We give them a vest and make sure they've got long pants and boots and gloves, but we carry all that stuff with us because we know we're going to run into that stuff,” said Baker. 

While The Other Ones Foundation cleans out camping areas hidden by the trees, they let the people living there know they are not forgotten. 
“This is community and fellowship and showing people some love where they may not have seen it in a long time,” said Baker.  

So far, 150 people have worked in the program. Although temporary at first, the program is now slated to continue for the next decade. Plans to expand it are already in the works. 

“So we are, more or less, tripling in capacity, which is exciting,” Baker said. 

That will also include additional populations.

“One of them, we've teamed up with the Veteran's Foundation, and the people on that crew will be exclusively veterans experiencing homelessness,” said Baker.  

For those who work there, the most beautiful part isn't knowing more than 100,000 pounds of trash have been removed from parks and greenbelts, it's getting a second chance.