Bella Roberts, 35, brings in bags of trash to receive her $2 per bag on the last day of the Triangle Project, Thursday, June 30, in downtown San Diego. / Photo by Peggy Peattie for Voice of San Diego

This post originally appeared in the Sept. 20 Morning ReportSign up for the daily newsletter here.

An initiative to pay homeless residents to pick up trash twice a week is back on.

Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halverstadt and contributor Peggy Peattie previously profiled a pilot effort known as the Triangle Project for the triangle-shaped area bounded by National Avenue and 16th and Commercial streets where homeless residents could receive $2 for every bag of trash they collected. Participants picked up nearly 45 tons of trash over the 34-day pilot backed by nonprofit Lucky Duck Foundation.

Drew Moser of the Lucky Duck Foundation said the initial effort was such a success that the nonprofit decided it needed to bring it back.

So early Monday, volunteers once again set up around a donated dumpster from waste disposal company EDCO, supplied bright blue trash bags and handed over cash as nearby residents returned with packed trash bags.

Bella Roberts, a past participant who stays at the nearby Alpha Project shelter, cheered the return of the program she learned was restarting Monday morning.

“That was an awesome start to the day,” Roberts said.

Roberts said she easily filled 10 bags.

Moser said the group gathered about 200 trash bags on its first day back at the corner of 16th and Commercial. They’ll be back again Thursday, and through at least the end of the year.

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

Join the Conversation


  1. That’s great. I used to pick up trash in the early mornings around the La Jolla Tidepools and Children’s Pool, and throughout Balboa Park (the trashiest area in San Diego). Now I pick up trash along my hikes around La Mesa and Spring Valley, but it usually only fills a kitchen garbage bag. Sometimes I find where someone was camping in the bushes for awhile or where cups, liquor bottles, fast food bags and leftovers were tossed into the bushes or onto the street (that’s just acting-out: social disrespect) and then there’s a bit more, but it’s nothing like these urban areas. RESPECT!

  2. I really like this idea. Once a week, along with three other people, I pick up trash along Washington St. and the 163. There are homeless encampments in the canyons there, and they generate a lot of trash. I have not yet met a homeless person who wants to live in trash. Some will bring me trash to put in my bag and some encampments will set trash bags out along the street for us to pick up. Our group does not go down into the canyons where the encampments are, but we can see an awful lot of trash down there. Paying the homeless to clean up their own trash is a win for everyone.

  3. A novel idea for sure. People willing and able to work are getting the opportunity to do so for economic gain. The best part, the charity industry is learning how to purchase labor for societal good while restoring the dignity of choice to those who participate. I encourage this to not only continue, but take lessons learned into the gig-economy. Local programs are great, but homelessness is not a local problem. We have the tools and the tech to roll progress like this out nation-wide. Our hesitation into this new market is being paid for by people who are willing and able to work but lack any real opportunities to do so. The industry of charity is not immune to the benefits of efficiency.

Leave a comment
We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.