By Caryn Blanton
Founded in October 2016, Pacific Beach Street Guardians (PBSG) is a non-profit (501c3) that functions as a social enterprise. Neighbors who are experiencing homelessness are hired to handle many different tasks, including:
- Care for the streets, sidewalks, alleys, parking lots and beaches of our community
- Perform janitorial/custodial work for local businesses, organizations, and residents
- Provide event services (set up/take down and trash/recycling)
As a social enterprise, PBSG offers much more than a job – Team Members are given the opportunity to gain pride, purpose, stability, dignity, a path to self-sufficiency and hope.
Because of the dedication to serve the community with integrity and quality, PBSG is able to earn funds to reinvest in the transformation of the lives of their employees. More than 75 percent of annual expenses are paid for by the services that Team Members provide to the community. Not only is there a positive economic impact, but a significant social impact as well. As lives change, so does the neighborhood.
Although there’s much focus on PBSG Team Members and the work that they do, another important aspect of the mission is to connect housed and unhoused neighbors through service opportunities and community education. Sharing about the realities of life on the street and dispelling the myths and stereotypes about those experiencing homelessness has been an important piece of their work in the community. Community cleanups and volunteer opportunities through the PBSG Garden Club have been significant in bringing neighbors together, housed and unhoused alike, to work side by side with the purpose of making Pacific Beach even more beautiful.
Community organizations, local churches, businesses and residents working in collaboration with PBSG, have been able to offer Team Members the vital resources that are necessary to prepare for life off of the street. Life-skill training and workshops are given on a rotating basis, such as:
- Conflict Resolution
- Money Management
- Business Etiquette
- Self Defense
- Time Management
- Public Speaking
- Resume Writing
- Interview Techniques
- Stress Management/Self Care
- First Aid/CPR
The past year has been a year of growth and development for PBSG. In February 2017, Discover PB (the non-profit that manages the Pacific Beach Business Improvement District) created a pilot program to improve the safety and cleanliness of the community in a non-traditional way. PBSG has been contracted to provide the cleaning services through the Discover PB Clean and Safe Program. Not only does this offer jobs and upward mobility to local unhoused neighbors, Team Members are able to serve as community ambassadors to others who are living on the streets by offering them information and resources that are needed.
The Discover PB Clean and Safe Program largely contributed to the success of PBSG in 2017. The organization was able to hire 22 Team Members who took part in the program, five of whom moved on to permanent employment and housing.
The pilot program ended on February 1, 2018. Due to its success, there is currently a funding campaign going on to ensure another year of service to the community. Discover PB has committed to half of the $130,000.00/year to sustain the program but is looking for help from other organizations, businesses, and residents to raise the remainder of the funds.
PBSG is looking forward to more community collaborations like this in 2018. The focus on finding work will continue to be of importance to the organization, but researching the possibilities regarding transitional housing for current PBSG Team Members is something that’s needed to help them move toward self-sufficiency.
Showing up to a shift after only a few hours of sleep on the pavement, under a bush or in a cramped car is difficult at best. Team Members have made the decision to “turn the page” and change their lives. They’re doing work that’s not glamorous, to say the least – picking up trash, scrubbing floors and toilets and cleaning alleys – proving that they’ll do just about anything to make the change. Having the community come alongside them in support is making a difference.
After only one year, significant changes are happening. PBSG and the Pacific Beach community is an example of addressing the issue of homelessness with compassion, resources, and hard work.
Anyone interested in donating to the Discover PB Clean and Safe Program can do so on their website at pacificbeach.org/donate