City of San Jose partners with Mastercard, Valley Water to engage homeless residents in battle against blight as first in the country for this program

City of San JoseOn Nov. 12, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Councilmember Raul Peralez (D-3), Danielle Lam, City Possible Enterprise Partnerships Manager for Mastercard, and BeautifySJ Program Manager Olympia Williams to launch ‘Cash for Trash’, a pilot program under the BeautifySJ initiative that will battle blight in San Jose by incentivizing homeless residents to pick up trash at encampments in exchange for programmable and reloadable cards from Mastercard.


“All too often, we hear people point at the homeless as ‘the problem’ as they look at the blight, trash, and encampments in our community. I have spoken with many homeless residents who have expressed a desire to be part of the solution. Through Cash for Trash, we enlist our homeless neighbors in our battle against blight while paving a pathway for future interactions that will open many of our homeless residents to services and assistance,” said Mayor Liccardo. “Thanks to Mastercard and to Valley Water for their collaboration in this innovative venture to clean our creeks, streets, and neighborhoods.”


After a delayed launch in February due to COVID, Cash for Trash will now take place at 40 locations throughout San Jose. Site locations are determined with input from Valley Water. BeautifySJ crews will distribute Cash for Trash bags at each location, redeemable at $4 per bag. Participants can turn in up to five bags for a total of $20 which will be loaded onto a Mastercard City Key card. These debit cards are program-specific cards that Mastercard has enabled maintenance-free,as part of this partnership. Funds can be used to pay for essential items with minor restrictions on items like alcohol and tobacco.


During the first week of the program at two sites, 27 homeless residents enrolled and collected over two tons of trash. San Jose is the first city in the country to launch a program like Cash for Trash, paying homeless residents per bag of trash to be a part of the solution. This innovative program engages with homeless residents, putting them in contact with city staff with the potential to lead to further opportunities to offer needed resources. The program will also help to tackle the exacerbated blight accumulating on streets and in waterways near encampments.


“We are thrilled to partner with the City of San Jose through the City Possible network and leverage our technology to help unhoused residents access support and the digital economy,” said Miguel Gamino, Executive Vice President of Enterprise Partnerships and Head of Global Cities, Mastercard. “The City Key card provides a platform for the city to maintain and deepen a relationship with a hard-to-reach community and promote inclusive engagement during a difficult time.”
Funding for Cash for Trash is made possible through an allocation of $50,000 from the City of San Jose designated for trash clean up. In addition, Valley Water partnered to provide a $180,000 grant ($60K per year through the year 2023) to the program.


BeautifySJ is an initiative launched in 2017 by Mayor Liccardo to clean up and restore public spaces by uniting thousands of volunteers in the San Jose community. To learn more about BeautifySJ, visit here.