With a smile, Suna Lock remembers the first time she went to a meeting for the Downtown Streets Team in San Jose, nearly a year ago.
The program, which provides work to homeless people, filled the whole room with positivity and cheer, as staffers used yoga exercises and stretching to keep people engaged, says Lock, board president for the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz (DTA) and owner of the store Stripe.
The Downtown Streets Team pays stipends for groceries and other basic needs to team members on their cleaning crews, which pick up trash from the streets, sidewalks and parks of Silicon Valley.
“It’s extraordinary, really,” Lock says.
They just needed someone to bring it over the hill.
Since then, Chip, the no-last-name executive director of the DTA, has led the charge to create a streets team chapter in Santa Cruz, one he hopes will kick off in July.
After searching for someone to spearhead the effort, Chip decided to take a crack at it himself. He came up with a goal to try to raise $48,000 by his 48th birthday, which falls on Sunday, Feb. 19, and he’s holding a fundraising concert at Motion Pacific on the 18th, with tickets going for $25.
“It’s always easy to say ‘They should do this.’ And then there’s this realization that we’re ‘they.’ I really believe in this program. I think it’s going to be successful in Santa Cruz. I could have asked the City Council to do it, but if we start it ourselves, they will follow us. I have friends. I’m about to turn 48, I can exploit that,” says Chip—who honestly doesn’t look a day over 46—explaining his fundraising efforts and thought process.
Sunday’s benefit show will feature music from Keith Greeninger, playing with his old Americana group City Folk, and Tammi Brown.
The Downtown Streets Team began in Palo Alto 12 years ago before spreading to half a dozen other communities around the Bay Area. The organization’s website says its goal is to end homelessness “through the dignity of work.”
Chip says the campaign has raised around $40,000 so far, and he’s optimistic they’ll raise the remaining $8,000 by Sunday. To fill out the budget, he’ll ask local governments for the rest of the funding this spring.
If the chapter gets off the ground, it could possibly bring cleaning crews to areas all over town, including to the beaches and river levee. The group strikes a balance, Lock says, between structure and flexibility, offering a number of classes and services to help crew members in need.
“It’s brilliant because it’s remarkably simple in how it’s put together,” she says. “The part of it that’s so exciting is that they give people job interview techniques. And they partner with Goodwill to provide clothes that people can use.”
The Downtown Street Team fundraiser is at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18 at Motion Pacific. Tickets are $25. For more information, visit justchip.com. To donate or learn more about the Downtown Streets Team, visit streetsteam.org.