When Kevin Barber was sixteen, he watched a TED Talk video that changed not just his life, but the lives of thousands of other people in the San Diego, California community.
The video Kevin watched was about a charitable organization in Albuquerque, New Mexico that pays the homeless to clean up the city. After watching the program, Kevin was inspired to bring this initiative to his own city. “It just looked really simple, and the statistics were staggering,” he said.
San Diego, where Kevin lives, has the country’s fourth-largest homeless population.
Kevin’s mother is an emergency room physician who comes into contact with the city’s homeless population every day. Dr. Carolyn Barber says she fully supports her son’s efforts to help the homeless help themselves. “I see so many people who just don’t have many opportunities,” she said.
Kevin and Dr. Barber reached out to city government to get a trial run of a program called Wheels for Change started in San Diego.
Kevin’s GoFundMe describes the logistics of the program:
“The program is simple. Several days a week a van will pick up homeless people who express an interest in working. The van will take them to work picking up trash, pulling weeds, clearing brush, etc.
At the end of the day, workers will be driven back to Alpha Project, or to the City’s new tent structures for the homeless, and will be compensated for their work. Here they may also possibly get shelter arranged.
The goal is to get the homeless connected with social services they need, into housing, and offer them the dignity of working. It empowers people and gives them work. We believe this is a win-win for the City, the homeless, and our community.”
The initiative received strong support. “It’s a win-win for everybody,” said City Councilman Scott Sherman. “Employing the homeless population to clean up the city has the added benefit of easing the burden on San Diego’s sanitation department.”
Kevin proves that you’re never too young to make a difference in your community!