Houseless Environmental Volunteers Initiative
The Houseless Environmental Volunteers Initiative (HEVI) aims to provide reliable and meaningful volunteer opportunities, with stipends, to houseless individuals in San Jose, while furthering environmental efforts and contributing to the urban forest.
As the Bay Area begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the houseless community has received inadequate support. Unemployment rates have dropped by 8% this past year, but the houselessness rate in California is still projected to increase by 68% of what it is now in the next 4 years. This is primarily due to the large amounts of layoffs in the pandemic and small business closures, which have forced people to foreclose their homes, couchsurf, or live on the streets. The public has recognized this need for jobs and solutions for the houseless population. According to a survey conducted by Mercury News, houselessness is currently recognized as the number one issue of the Bay Area.
Environmental efforts have also been impeded throughout the pandemic, with government programs, individual donations, and volunteers focused on the public health crisis. Small local nonprofits have shut down due to a lack of funding, and those that are still open are left with a fraction of the labor that they operated with at the beginning of 2020.
HEVI aims to address both imperative issues by engaging the houseless community in reliable forms of employment that simultaneously support the environmental cause.