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SAN DIEGO – More than 2.5 tons of trash have been collected as part of a new pilot program that launched last week to help keep San Diego’s downtown homeless camps clean.

The idea all started with a conversation with a volunteer Brian Trotier and a man named Richard who lives along Commercial Street. Trotier has been handing out food to the homeless for more than a year through the Lucky Duck Foundation.

That’s when he decided to ask people what else they might need. 

“We don’t have any place to throw our trash, and we keep getting blamed for all the trash,” Trotier said.

That’s when the light bulb went off: Why not pay people living on the streets to pick up the trash?

“If we could get a dumpster location for a fixed number of hours a couple times a week, get some funding to pay them to pick up, we could find out if its actually less costly for the city,” he said. 

And that’s exactly what came to fruition last week. Trotier launched the Triangle Project with funding from the Lucky Duck Foundation. 

“Let’s do a test and learn, and see what the outcomes are here, and put some money behind this to take an idea that was well thought out and turn it into reality,” said Drew Moser with the Lucky Duck Foundation.

It’s a simple program. People living near Commercial and 16th Street can fill up a free trash bag, bring it to a rented dumpster nearby on Mondays and Thursdays and they’ll get $2.

“We’re averaging more than 100 bags of trash per day right now,” Trotier said.

He said other unintended benefits are also emerging.  

“By taking control of their lived environment, and being more personally responsible for the cleanliness, you’ve actually inched them closer to being ready for services and housing, which of course is what we all want is to get people who want housing, housed,” Trotier said. 

The pilot program lasts until June 30 and could be adopted further from there.