SEATTLE — A unique pilot program in Seattle is combining a couple of concerns in the hopes of a “win-win” solution.
“Helping the homeless to find employment and cleaning up the city at the same time is a way to empower people.” said Kathy Cox with City University of Seattle.
The school is championing a project that their Enactus team created for a national competition in New York.
The City University Enactus team won first place for the early stage competition in April, and is now putting that idea in to action on the streets of Seattle. Enactus is a student organization that brings together college students, academic professionals, and industry leaders to focus on a shared mission of creating a more sustainable world through entrepreneurship.
Students started with a needs assessment, and determined two of the cities main issues impacting the community are homelessness and graffiti vandals.
The team developed “Project Clean Up” to simultaneously address both issues. The project even studied the correlation between graffiti and crime rates, both of which have increased since the start of the pandemic. Homelessness has also been on the rise and with rising inflation, it was time to put a good idea in to practice.
City University of Seattle said the Enactus team is partnering with Uplift Northwest to deploy a startup company in which homeless people in Seattle can train and become employed to clean up graffiti. Uplift Northwest is a Seattle-based nonprofit that was formerly known as the Millionair Club Charity.
Since 1921, the organization has provided men and women with life-changing opportunities. Executive Director Gina Hall said their true purpose is to provide dignity and hope.
“The average age of the person who comes to Uplift Northwest is 44 years old so providing them with training and a job is empowering them to take control of their lives and make their own decisions.”
The organization is excited to implement the new graffiti-cleaning business as it will employ more men and women who may be experiencing poverty and homelessness in the Puget Sound.
The pilot project is being funded by several grants, including $25,000 from the Metropolitan Improvements District and $50,000 from the National University System, City University's parent company. The team is currently cleaning the Belltown United Neighborhood and hopes to expand the scale and reach with successful implementation over the summer.