Downtown Streets Team
Members of the Downtown Streets Team (DST) Santa Cruz help remove litter near Panther Beach. DST invites the unhoused to volunteer with the organization for cleanups as they chart their path out of homelessness. A launch party for the DST in Boulder Creek is set for Friday, April 12. (Contributed)

Twice each year, in spring and fall, residents of Boulder Creek head downtown to participate in the Town Sweep. Weeds are pulled, sidewalks are swept and the stretch of Highway 9 that turns into Central Avenue is perfectly polished by the end of the day.

Now, that bi-annual event will be augmented by a new team that is sweeping through town. The Downtown Streets Team (DST) is a program that invites the unhoused to volunteer with the group as they chart their path out of homelessness. 

While providing weekly cleanups in Boulder Creek, these volunteers will also be adding valuable experience to their resumés and boosting their own feelings of self-worth.

Jocelyn Curran, director of DST for Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, is enthused about the partnership between her team and the Boulder Creek Business Association (BCBA). She’s seen the results of her group’s efforts in other jurisdictions and expects the same outcome in the community of Boulder Creek.

“Since launching in August 2017, DST Santa Cruz has collected 663,869 gallons of debris, 32,107 cigarette butts and safely removed 29,026 needles,” Curran said.

For the Boulder Creek effort, Curran outlines the positive results that residents can expect:

  • Cleaner/safer streets, communities, encampments and natural environments;
  • A cost-effective solution to homelessness with savings to local government;
  • An individualized case management model and gateway program for the “service resistant”;
  • Immediate results;
  • An intervention with positive behavioral changes; and
  • A highly visible model that provides good PR for the unhoused community and project partners.

For Karen Edwards, president of the Boulder Creek Business Association Board of Directors, she’s looking forward to the collaboration between Curran’s group and her own team of community-based volunteers.

“Boulder Creek has long been known for its strength, pride in community and welcoming spirit. It’s with this in mind that the BCBA has been working with representatives from DST and the county to bring DST crews to Boulder Creek on a regular basis,” said Edwards, resident cheerleader for the BCBA. “DST is highly recognized as a vessel to assist the unhoused in finding their dignity within while providing a service to the community around them. We are thrilled to have the DST crew coming to Boulder Creek on a weekly basis.”

She added, “As we prepare for more visitors to the area in the summer months and those who will be stopping on their way to Big Basin, having DST help us keep downtown clean and welcoming is a key factor in elevating the success of the businesses in the area.”

Testimonials from DST program participants show that the process is worth the end product. Since its launch in 2017, 76 individuals have entered into employment (49 of them lasting at least 90 days) and 31 into permanent housing. 

Team Members have volunteered a total of 143,857 hours beautifying the community, and they have a lot more to give.

“I’m hoping that DST members will be picked up by local businesses to perform housekeeping duties like window washing and handyman work. Ultimately, we see this as a win-win for all involved,” Edwards said.

The community is encouraged to attend the Downtown Streets Team Launch Party on Friday, April 12, from 9:30-10:30am in front of the Sheriff Substation, 13210 Central Ave., in Boulder Creek. There will be staff and crew from DST as well as a few speakers that will address the crowd.

Edwards is looking forward to getting this partnership off the ground. 

“The main objective of the launch is to give the community the opportunity to meet the team and find out how the program will benefit the town of Boulder Creek,” she said.

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Christina Wise covers politics, education, art & culture, and housing issues. She has a degree in Communication from San Diego State University, and has lived in the San Lorenzo Valley since 1996. She's a community advocate and a mother of two.


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