Many are calling it a win win: clean up our local highways and create jobs for clients of the Bakersfield Homeless Center. That is a plan in the works right now, according to City Manager, Alan Tandy.
Supporters of this plan say it's still in its conceptual phase, but it makes sense to people like Sal Moretti, Superintendent of the City of Bakersfield Solid Waste Division.
"And, so it just makes perfect sense to see if the city could provide a crew from the Bakersfield Homeless Center to start looking at the possibility of doing freeway litter," said Moretti.
Caltrans' contract with the Shafter Community Correctional Facility using inmate cleaning crews along Highway 58 and 99, ended in 2011. Since then, Moretti says his department, the city and the group Keep Bakersfield Beautiful, began working together for another solution.
That's when they thought of the city's Green Waste program and their agreement to offer jobs to people from the Bakersfield Homeless Center. They thought why not picking up trash too?
"We already have a track record of individuals who are just begging for the opportunity to be employed," said Louis Gill, CEO, Bakersfield Homeless Center.
"We actually would be honored to have a job," said Phillip Montez, who lives at the Bakersfield Homeless Center.
Montez is one of about 15 from the center who has a job at the Green Waste location and he knows of others at BHC who can't find work, who would love the opportunity to clean up the city.
"I think everybody would," said Montez. "Just like the sign says, it's a way up. It's a helping hand. It's working for the city. Anything on your resume like that says you work with the city would look awesome."
Caltrans has a quarter million dollars for the plan for each of the next two years. Moretti says that won't be enough to pay minimum wages for the three crews of seven people hired from the center needed to effectively clean up the roads. He's counting on private donors, some of whom have already expressed interest, to come through.
"I think the private sector has the most to gain by making sure our perception of Bakersfield is one that we can be proud of," said Moretti.
City staff is still working on the details of the agreements, issues such as liability and insurance. They will then present that to the Bakersfield City Council.
Caltrans also must agree to the terms.