Every Monday morning in an alley off Rose Avenue in Venice, the homeless go to work.
It is the Greater Rose Avenue Cleanup Effort, headed by a team of homeless people and sponsored by the St. Joseph Center, a support center for homeless and low-income families.
Under the program, which began in June, half a dozen homeless people armed with gloves, bags and brooms sweep the alley from 4th Street to 7th Street and deposit the trash in dumpsters.
When the work is done, they sit down to a free meal at the nearby Bread and Roses restaurant, which was started by the St. Joseph Center to serve the homeless.
"Even though people are of low income and homeless, they like to do something for their community," said Jeanette Rowe, a staff member of the St. Joseph Center. "They live here. This is their community, although they are identified as a problem in the community."
Organizers and participants say the program is accomplishing its twin goals--to help the homeless develop a sense of responsibility for their surroundings and to establish a rapport with the community.
"This effort has really helped to make a difference," said Patrick Dolan, director of the program, which is known by its acronym, GRACE. "The neighbors have given us some positive responses from the work we're doing."
Said Herb Yates, a 59-year-old homeless man: "It keeps me occupied. It makes the alley look better, and people don't complain anymore about the homeless people."
If the cleanup effort continues to be successful, the St. Joseph Center hopes to extend it to two times a week and increase the number of homeless people who pitch in.
But for now, the shelter and the homeless are happy with their effort, which participants now call "Patrick's Posse." Said Jose Jimenez, a 67-year-old homeless man: "I enjoy being a part of Patrick's posse. I guess I've just got that volunteer spirit."
Neighbors also appear pleased.
Said Venice resident Candy Ibarra2 "It shows that (the homeless) have a heart and they give to the city when the city does not give them anything in return."