Working with partner organizations, the City of Portland helps create job opportunities for people experiencing homelessness. These jobs provide economic independence and stable employment, and the work done helps address the impacts of unsanctioned camping.
These programs are part of the Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program's (IRP) work to minimize the impacts of homelessness today while the City of Portland expands long-term access to safe, affordable housing.
In 2021, the City of Portland began a partnership with Ground Score Association, a peer-led initiative fiscally sponsored by the nonprofit Trash for Peace. In response to the urgent need for trash pickup in Portland, Ground Score Association and the City collaborated to launch GLITTER - Ground Score Leading Inclusively Together Through Environmental Recovery.
GLITTER was designed not to simply clean up litter, but to provide tent-side waste collection services to homeless camps throughout the city. This program was created and is implemented using a trauma-informed lens by people who are experiencing, or have recently experienced, homelessness. Currently the program runs about 24 tent-side waste collection routes in Old Town, downtown, the Central Eastside, North Portland, and East Multnomah County. Collection crews set out on foot or bike and leave materials in designated locations along the routes for GLITTER e-bike and truck crews to later collect for disposal.
While much of the materials discarded at camps is non-recyclable, GLITTER is working to establish a more circular economy for many of the materials - particularly metals, batteries, and textiles. Currently, textile waste is taken to Hygiene4All for washing and redistribution, and non-reusable textiles are sent for rag-making. Furniture, wood, and textile waste is also upcycled through Ground Score Association’s new reuse and repair program.
GLITTER by the numbers:
- Since it started in 2021, 43 GLITTER workers have been officially hired as payroll employees of Ground Score Association. Over 95% of those hired were formerly or currently are houseless.
- 60% of workers who came to the program unhoused have become housed since becoming payroll employees of Ground Score.
- From June 30, 2022 - July 1, 2023, GLITTER teams collected over one million pounds of trash, including over 200 pounds of cigarette butts. GLITTER teams collect 15,000 to 20,000 pounds of trash each week, on average.
- GLITTER diverts what materials it can for recycling and reuse. In the month of September 2023, the GLITTER program diverted approximately 300 pounds of discarded textiles for redistribution and rag-making.
- GLITTER offers valuable experience and training opportunities to workers, including digital equity training, CPR and first aid training, de-escalation training, and resource navigation support including support with re-entry into the formal workforce. Ground Score has also helped many workers access treatment for addiction recovery and mental health.
The City of Portland contracts Clean Start teams to conduct assessments of unsanctioned campsites. Every reported camp in the city is first assessed by a Clean Start team, who documents the size and nature of the site, talks with residents at the site when possible, and offers to clean up debris and leave trash bags behind.
Clean Start is a homeless-to-work program operated by Central City Concern. Established in 1996, Clean Start provides trash removal and cleaning services to the Portland metro area. Over the span of six months, Clean Start trainees receive peer mentoring while learning job skills and building confidence for future employment opportunities. They are also connected to Central City Concern’s wraparound services, including supportive housing, integrated health care, addiction treatment, employment assistance and more. The majority of trainees exit the program with long-term employment and housing.