Civic Group
Downtown Streets Team Santa Cruz

Our goal is to end homelessness in our lifetime: one community at a time.

Years of service: 3

Leadership: Jordon Vaden, Project Manager

Their story: First proving its model in San Jose, this volunteer work-experience program for those experiencing homelessness expanded to Santa Cruz in 2017. You can now find team members in yellow shirts keeping things clean not only in Downtown Santa Cruz but at local beaches, parks and a growing number of other sites. Here’s how it works: Homeless men and women volunteer to beautify their community. In return, they gain work experience and a non-cash stipend to help cover their basic needs, setting them on a path to stable housing and employment.

Fundraising focus: As folks from near and far flock to Santa Cruz County beaches during the COVID-19 pandemic, the local Downtown Streets Team — one of 16 in Northern California — has been busier than ever. The crew’s cleanup efforts span from Main and Cowell beaches all the way up to Panther, as team members work to keep these stretches of sand as safe and trash-free as possible. Donations are needed to pay for the gift cards and case-management services given to the team’s men and women, most of whom don’t have homes of their own. These volunteers joined the Downtown Streets Team as a stepping stone toward a better life, both personally and professionally. Other cleanup and beautification projects along the San Lorenzo Riverwalk and the Harvey West neighborhood would benefit from additional funding, too.

We believe that treating people with dignity and empowering them to be a part of the solution to their struggles is a major factor in their ultimate success.