Update: Wheels of Change has expanded and raised enough money to reach more than double the amount of homeless people in the local area. Since the story first aired, the program has gained a significant amount of help from private funding and foundations raising about $400,000, and the city of San Diego’s donation of $250,000. Plus, instead of running 1 van downtown 3 days a week, Wheels of Change will now be able to run 2 vans, expanding out of downtown area, 5 days a week.
This current expansion reaching more than double the number of homeless people is exciting for the program’s only second year of operation. See why this life-changing program was featured on the front page of the San Diego Tribune. Participants work closely with shelter case managers and housing navigators to access other wrap-around services. Teams are dispatched five times a week to provide community clean-ups including litter pick up, weed and brush abatement, and other community enhancement projects:
A San Diego High School student, Kevin Barber, was inspired by a Ted Talk to create a life-changing program, called Wheels of Change (WOC), to help the homeless. Kevin’s co-founded program has been named one of the top 5 inspirational stories of 2018 on CNN. With guidance from his mother, Dr. Carolyn Barber, assistance from donors, and from the help of the Alpha Project (a San Diego based nonprofit that now runs WOC full-time), Kevin launched the Wheels of Change program in 2017.
How the program works: several days a week, a van picks up interested homeless people and drives them to places to help clean up the city. They receive up to $46.50 in cash at the end of the workday, and they may be offered shelter and/or social services.
Kenneth “KB” Allen (van driver and mentor of WOC) says their motto is, “to pick up some trash for cash.” Some of the members from Wheels of Change say that the program has empowered them to make a positive impact on the downtown San Diego area. Two of the members, Terrance Collins and Coleen Murphy, shared their stories about how they have witnessed the impact they’ve made on the community and how the program has helped their lives immensely.
Plus, there is a peer to peer outreach component to the WOC program. When the homeless are out working, they reach out to other homeless individuals and offer them snacks and drinks, and ask if they want shelter at the Bridge Shelter. If they do, KB will immediately call the shelter to see if there is room.
Hundreds have taken part in the program, and with the help of donors and supporters, Kevin hopes to expand Wheels of Change. Their goal is to get two vans running five days a week, which could potentially employ up to 4,000 people a year.