Alpha Project, a nonprofit(501(c)(3)) with more than 30 years of experience serving the homeless, runs this program. Mayor Faulconer and City Councilman Scott Sherman support Wheels Of Change and announced the program's opening on February 26th, 2018. Over a dozen cities including Albuquerque, Austin, Chicago, Denver, Lexington, Portland, and Seattle have successfully implemented similar programs in recent years.
The program is simple. Our 2 vans go out 5 days a week to pick up homeless people who express an interest in working. The van takes them to worksites, where they pick up trash, pull weeds, clear brush, etc. At the end of the day, workers are driven back to Alpha Project's Bridge Shelter for the homeless and are paid minimum wage. Here they may also possibly get shelter arranged. The goal is to get the homeless connected with social services they may need, into housing, and offer them the dignity of work. Wheels of Change empowers people and gives them work.
Wheels of Change statistics:
Our program has employed 375 individuals this past year. Due to our recent expansion, we will offer 5,200 work opportunities this year!
Our workers have cleaned up more than 20 tons of trash.
56 cities have made site visits to see Wheels of Change, hoping to model a similar program in their city.
With our recent expansion, we clean not only the downtown area but Southeast SD, Barrio Logan, Memorial Oak Park, Mountain View, Shell town, East Village, Gaslamp Quarter, Horton Plaza, City Heights, Cortez Hill, North Park, and Hillcrest!
Wheels of Change featured recently in California Live TV show:
Interestingly, Kevin Barber, age 16, is one of the wheels that helped get Wheels of Change rolling. Inspired by a TED talk given by Albuquerque's Mayor Richard Berry, and a mom who's an ER physician working with our homeless, Kevin decided to try to bring this program to San Diego. He convinced his mom to take him to Albuquerque so he could work alongside the homeless and learn the ins and outs of their program. Kevin was so humbled by the gratitude of the homeless on the crew, and their needs, that he returned to San Diego committed to creating a program here.
Kevin spent the next 6 months trying to convince city officials of the program’s merit, finding a top-notch nonprofit like Alpha Project to run it, and fundraising to securing funding for a van and the initial 6 months of the program. On February 26th, 2018 Mayor Faulconer, Councilperson Scott Sherman, and Alpha Project CEO Bob McElroy rolled out Wheels of Change downtown, and it's being very warmly received.
The homeless people are so thankful for the opportunity to work. One female crew member openly shared that she had been suicidal and was atop the Coronado bridge ready to jump last week. This week she was on our van headed to work, was incredibly grateful, and says she wants to be “an example to others." Another homeless female had been a substitute teacher but lost her job due to mental health issues. She is now doing very well and applying to 9 jobs at Home Depot! She hopes to earn $72 to get fingerprinted for the applications. Regina Meals, one of the crew members, said 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." And, Nichole Hill, said 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, an electrician recently lost his job when he was hospitalized for 4 months. He states he does not want disability but wants to work! Presently, we have 150 people on the waiting list to join the Wheels of Change crew!
San Diego has over 11,000 homeless people who can benefit from this program. Alpha Project is a non-profit 501(c)(3) human services organization that serves over 4,000 men, women, and children each day. They have 30 years of experience helping our homeless.
Kevin and his mom recently visited the 300 person homeless Bridge Shelter downtown, and his mom treats homeless people in the ER. Some folks are depressed with little positive going on in their lives. We really believe that by giving homeless people a chance to work and have more purpose, it can help restore their sense of dignity. And, perhaps fewer will turn to drinking or other substances. Wheels of Change!
Thanks to Alpha Project and the generous support of community members, the Davis Foundation, Lucky Duck Foundation, Danna Foundation, SDGE, etc, we are all helping people and it is very exciting! The homeless could not be more grateful. We do need help sustaining this program over the long term. Please consider a tax-deductible donation to Alpha Project’s 501(c.)(3) Funds go directly to putting homeless people to work at Wheels of Change. Thank you for your interest and support! It takes a village!