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Homeless hired to clean up Yakima Greenway during pandemic

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YAKIMA -- Some people don't always consider the Yakima Greenway the safest place in town, but a group of homeless people staying at Camp Hope have recently been hired to help make the place cleaner and safer for the community to enjoy.

The Yakima Greenway was built as a green oasis, but some have complained of trash, crime and homeless encampments.

Camp Hope director Mike Kay says there are homeless people who live in encampments at the Greenway. He says they've encouraged those people to find shelters.

Now the Yakima Greenway has turned to the homeless to help make the trails, parks and facilities there safe and clean during the pandemic.

A group of eight people experiencing homelessness have been brought on to work as interns for the Greenway.

The executive director Kellie Connaughton says since the pandemic began they've seen a surge of people using the Greenway. So when they were awarded a grant to help them during the pandemic, they went straight to Camp Hope.

"It's a win, win for them to be able to be out here, earn some money, and do what they love doing, and that's taking care of the facility and the trail," says Connaughton.

Shelbie Printz is one of those people from Camp Hope who's working to make sure bathrooms are clean and sanitized, and picking up garbage at the Greenway.

"To show that I'm just like anyone else, you know I'm trying to get my life together, and trying to better myself," says Printz.

Kay says the work gives them structure in their day, and something they can put on their resumes.

"To go from being marginalized, and not perceiving to have any real value, which is a perception a lot of them will tell you they have, to now they've got some responsibility by an outside provider who says here's the keys. We're going to provide you with a golf cart. We're going to let you represent us. That's huge," says Kay.

Another intern, Scott Dearing, says the work he's doing to make a difference is life changing.

"I still have goosebumps, and everything like that, about where I was and where I am now thanks to these people over here," says Dearing.

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This internship program started about a month ago and will last through October.

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