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San Jose Volunteers Backstop City In Massive Trash Cleanup Effort

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) - Folks in a San Jose neighborhood who are tired of seeing piles of trash from the homeless are taking matters into their own hands.

Student volunteers recently lined up at 9 a.m. to help clean out a homeless encampment in the wealthy Willow Glen neighborhood. It was an in-your-face lesson on how governments can't do it alone.

There are now about 1,500 squatters living along the creeks of Santa Clara County, dumping mountains of garbage in the waterways. Government agencies simply can't keep up with the tsunami of trash.

"There's only so much the city can do. If people can get out and help, more power to them," said parent volunteer Jan Herbert.

After seeing how the litter was killing Chinook Salmon in his neighborhood, Steve Holmes founded the "Friends of Los Gatos Creek," and organized cleanups with an army of hundreds of volunteers. Over the first year the group collected 50 tons of garbage.

"If we wait for the problem to be resolved by city, county, or federal, that's not gonna happen," said Holmes.

At a nearby 75 acre encampment known as the "jungle," Aurelia Sanchez goes it alone, picking up litter outside her adjacent home. She hopes to shame the trash creators into cleaning up after themselves.

"I just wish that maybe this will embarrass someone enough to do their job," said Sanchez.

The citizen-based cleanup efforts are not unlike a similar uprising seen last year after some city residents got fed up with a lack of police and hired a private guard.

City spokesperson David Vossbrink says the citizen uprisings are a good thing for quality of life in the city.

"The more people are involved and identify creative solutions, the more healthy our communities, all of our communities can be," said Vossbrink.

As for that homeless encampment cleanup team, they've had to come back to the same spot half a dozen times.


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