September 12, 2017 > Downtown Streets Team transforms lives
Downtown Streets Team transforms lives
By David R. Newman
A walk through downtown Hayward these days is a much more pleasant experience, thanks to the efforts of the Hayward Downtown Streets Team (DST). On any given morning, you might see this band of merry do-gooders, decked out in their bright yellow or green shirts, sweeping the streets clean of litter. To date (they started in July 2016), they have removed over 100,000 gallons of debris, helping the City of Hayward with their goal of zero waste entering the waterways through city storm drains by 2022.
Elisa Wilfong is the City of Haywards Water Pollution Control Administrator. The mandate is to stop trash from entering the San Francisco Bay and polluting the water. The City has been implementing a number of activities to achieve this goal, one of which is to promote and foster volunteer cleanups on the streets and in the creeks. Downtown Streets Team has been wonderful to help us with this goal. The have manned the streets in the greater downtown area as well as many of the ancillary streets that are consistently dirty from trash.
But DST is about much more than transforming cities Ð its about transforming lives. Founded in Palo Alto in 2005 by former Napster CEO Eileen Richardson, the nonprofit, peer-based work experience program was her way of combating homelessness in a region where housing rates have skyrocketed. There are now DST branches located throughout the Bay Area, including Sunnyvale, San Jose, San Rafael, Novato, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz.
Hayward DST currently operates with 20 team members and two staff Ð Project Manager Julia Lang, and Jade Milburn, who covers case management and employment services. Their contract with the City of Hayward and Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) includes cleaning streets Sunday through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
In exchange for volunteer hours, team members receive basic needs stipends in the form of gift cards. This unique work experience program also offers help with housing, job applications, driverÕs licenses, social security cards, eye glasses, doctor appointments, criminal record clearance, and more. Says Lang, ÒWe provide a very positive and safe community that motivates people to reach their next steps in life, and that helps them gain self-sufficiency.Ó
Meetings are held every Tuesday at the Hayward Area Historical Society (HAHS) and are open to all. Says Lang, ÒThis is their platform to share their voice with their community, and to share successes and resources.Ó Lunch is provided, and new members are encouraged to stop by and put their name on a waiting list. To qualify, participants need to be over 18 years of age and homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless.
Another important part of the DST model is that team members share their stories with schools, churches, social organizations, and business associations. By educating the public about their plight, they hope to change a system often skewed toward those with wealth. According to DST, the main reason people become homeless is job loss, but there are many other reasons, including a traumatic event, inability to pay for needed health care, or a criminal background. There are over 100,000 homeless individuals in the State of California, which represents 20 percent of all homeless people in the United States.
Team member Denise has been with DST Hayward for over a year. She manages a group that helps clean Memorial Park (next to the Hayward Plunge) through a partnership with the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District (HARD). She also helps out at the First Presbyterian Church in Castro Valley where she runs several programs, including free breakfasts, laundry, and overnight parking (providing a safe place to park for those who sleep in their cars). Says Denise, ÒDST Hayward has been wonderful. ItÕs truly like a family.Ó
While only in operation for a year, DST Hayward is expanding fast. They have recently signed a contract with the City of Hayward to create another team in the Tennyson Corridor. To help fund this expansion, DST is hosting their first annual ÒSwing for the TeamÓ golf and footgolf tournament with a goal of raising $7,000. The fun-filled event is taking place Friday, September 22 at the Mission Hills of Hayward golf course, and will feature wine tasting, snacks, a raffle, silent auction and prizes.
Plans are also in the works with Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley to expand into the unincorporated communities of Cherryland and Ashland; there has been a lot of interest from other East Bay cities as well. Says Lang, ÒIÕve seen so many people change over time through this programÉ their heart and their perception of themselves. They feel valued by other people, and that helps them value themselves, which is at the core of motivation. It makes you feel like you deserve something better.Ó
The Swing for the Team event is $45 per golfer, wine tasting included, or $25 for just lawn games and wine. To register, go to www.streetsteam.org/golf.
To learn more about the Hayward Downtown Streets Team, visit www.streetsteam.org or contact Julia Lang at (650) 690-5551 or Julia@streetsteam.org.
Swing for the Team Golf Tournament Fundraiser
Friday, Sep 22
Check-in: 2 p.m.
Tee time: 3 p.m. (shotgun)
Wine tasting, snacks and lawn games: 5 p.m.
Auction and raffle winners: 6 p.m.
Mission Hills of Hayward Golf Course
275 Industrial Pkwy, Hayward
Cost: $45 per golfer, $25 for lawn games & wine only