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Turlock 'Street Team' cleaning-up the city, connecting the homeless to jobs

A homeless volunteer program is successfully getting people into jobs and off the streets.

TURLOCK, California — For three weeks, Victor Villanueva has found himself homeless trying to finally beat a 20-year addiction to meth.

"Somebody kicks me out of my house. I lost everything. I lost my job," Villanueva said.

But, the carpenter by trade from Oakland has found a new life, volunteering to clean-up streets and now has a job interview for a maintenance position at a grocery store.

"I feel good. Ya know, something different," he said. "And, this is my chance to you know, save some money and get off the streets."

In less than two months time cleaning up the streets of Turlock, the results have been remarkable.

It began with a handful of community activists providing bags, tools and transportation for anyone homeless who wanted to volunteer to help to pick-up trash in the city.

Of the roughly 40 who have volunteered, eight now have full-time jobs, including six with their own place to stay and are now off the streets.

Close to 20 others have picked-up side jobs.

"There's stigma's around homelessness,"  said Helping Hands Street Team Co-Organizer David Fransen. "And, some of it's transiency, vagrant and some of it is just pure criminal element. But, seeing this there is hope to get people up and out of homelessness."

Liz Padilla helps run the homeless volunteers three days a week and connects employers to those hungry for work.

"It's not just about them just volunteering and being homeless and picking up, but they're also getting jobs, they're getting help and being able to get a normal life. They want their life back," she said. 

Larry Hall has been homeless for 10 months.

The former roofer and tile man wants to one day work for a city maintenance crew, but for now, has an interview for a job at a local restaurant.

"Some people actually want to clean-up and get back off the streets because we don't want to stay out here," he said.

The all-volunteer street team has previously relied solely on donations, but this week the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association voted unanimously to allocate $24,000 — or $2,000 per month, for a one-year commitment to the program.

Until those funds are available, donations are always welcome. If you would like to donate, contact Liz Padilla at 408-648-8122. She said the organization is always in need of water, ice, Gatorade, bags and lunches.

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