Wheels of Change is a job program for the homeless that a teenager, Kevin Barber, launched with Alpha Project (a nonprofit (501(c)(3)) and Mayor Faulconer in San Diego, February 2018. With over 11,000 homeless individuals on our streets, a recent Hepatitis A outbreak, and a mom who is an ER doctor working with the homeless, Kevin wanted to do something. He helped create "Wheels of Change", modeling it after a successful job program in Albuquerque, NM. It is now run by Alpha Project, who has more than 30 years experience working with our homeless.
At Wheels of Change, we take interested homeless individuals on vans to clean up trash in the community, paying them $13/hr. This past year our workers cleaned up more than 20 tons of trash! At the end of the work day, individuals may also be offered shelter and/or social services. This connection to services is a key aspect of the program. Our workers also do community outreach while working, inviting other homeless individuals to come in off the streets and to work, if they so desire.
In July 2019, with the support of the City and numerous donors, we doubled the operation of our program so that 100 homeless individuals can work per week. This will allow us to provide over 5000 work opportunities this year! The program has been a huge success. The homeless love the chance to work and, unbelievably, 56 cites have visited our program, including LA, San Francisco, Dallas, Seattle, Vancouver, etc. Wheels of Change is a win-win for the homeless, the city, and our community.
The homeless people, who have worked on our vans have been hardworking and so thankful for the opportunity to work. One female crew member openly shared that she had been suicidal and was on top of Coronado bridge ready to jump last week. Today, she was on our van headed to work, was incredibly grateful, and says she wants to be "an example to others." Another homeless individual planned to earn money in the program so he could purchase hair clippers. He wants to use them to shave his head and his face so he can look better when he applies for a permanent job. Regina Meals, one of the crew members, explained that she had been homeless for five years and this was the first time she had worked. "It means everything to me. I'm going to start my life all over again." Nichole Hill, shared that it would let her, "give back to the community and have some extra money to get around," as well as help her visit her 5-year-old son. Finally, Charles Berry exclaimed, "Thank you from the bottom of my heart... You're causing me to have faith in humanity again!" Together they have already picked up 20 tons of trash downtown! This program aims to empower our homeless and to immediately help change lives.
Both of the Wheels of Change vans leaves from the Alpha Project's Bridge Shelter downtown located at 16th and Newton Street. The van departs daily, Monday through Friday, at 8:30am. Crews' shifts last 4 hours. Please contact Alpha Project, or visit us downtown, for more information.