Feb. 28 (UPI) -- San Diego launched a new program this week that will pay homeless people $11.50 per hour to pick up trash off the city's streets.
The Wheels for Change program began Monday with about a dozen workers who had been living at one of San Diego's tented homeless shelters. They were transported to the city's downtown area to pick up trash on a four-hour shift.
"This is the first time I've worked in a while," said Dawn Caiazzo, one of the new workers in the program, told the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. "It feels good."
The program was started with a private, $70,000 donation from Dr. Carolyn Barber, an emergency room physician at UC San Diego School of Medicine and is funded for about six months.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the program "is all about creating more opportunities for homeless individuals to lift themselves out of extreme poverty."
"`Wheels for Change' will help restore dignity by allowing people to earn a paycheck and begin to get back on their feet," Faulconer added. "For many this may be just the chance they need to begin turning their lives around."
San Diego's Wheels for Change is based on a program started in Albuquerque, N.M. in 2015 that paid homeless people to pick up trash in various areas around the city.
Since then, several other cities, including Chhicago, Denver, Los Angeles and Fort Worth, Texas have implemented similar programs.
San Diego's attempt at giving jobs to homeless people comes less than a week after mayors of the 11th largest cities in California called on state lawmakers to allocate $1.5 billion to address the growing homelessness problem in the state.
The homeless population in the Golden State increased by 13 percent in 2016 and 14 percent in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.