I was grateful to read the Half Moon Bay Review article about the recent cleanup at the homeless encampment (Review, April 21).

The Review reported about the cleanup collaboration between Abundant Grace, the city of Half Moon Bay, and the homeless community. Working together, we made enormous strides in cleaning up the natural areas along the creek near Main Street and Highway 92. Many thanks to City Councilmember Joaquin Jimenez and Assistant City Manager Matthew Chidester for working with Republic Services (thanks to them, too!) to get dumpsters to the encampment two weeks in a row so thousands of pounds of trash could be collected. The easy communication between all involved and the good intentions made for a very successful cleanup. Thanks, especially, to the homeless community who did most of the heavy lifting and who are eager to continue the cleanups.

The city of Half Moon Bay has been a wonderful partner with Abundant Grace as we seek creative ways to employ people experiencing homelessness while pursuing all avenues available to help people improve their lives — whether around employment, housing, sobriety/recovery, health or food security.

The more the Coastside Clean Team works in the community to improve the habitat and cleanliness of our beaches and trails, the more we have seen people who work with us make better plans, save money and pursue options available for housing and other needs. Some of the best moments are when locals approach our crew and thank the Clean Team members for their work. That kind of basic human recognition is so helpful for people to feel valued and proud of themselves. And our Clean Team should feel proud: In the first two years they picked up 20,000 pounds of trash each year, and this year we are on track to pick up nearly 30,000 pounds!

As many of you know, some of our workers face unimaginable hardships that stem from family traumas, addictions, loss of work, mental health issues and much more. I want to recognize that the city of Half Moon Bay, our local residents, LifeMoves and other organizations are doing deeply essential work to assist some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

Small steps are a big deal. I have watched people start slowly and, as time goes by, get more and more involved with our programs and LifeMoves. As people progress, they sometimes overcome enormous obstacles. This past year, even during COVID-19 times, we helped four people move into their new apartments thanks to LifeMoves and the county’s housing voucher program. It’s impossible to overestimate how much this transforms someone’s life. Imagine the relief just to be able to lock your door at night, bathe in the morning and make yourself breakfast from the refrigerator.

Cleaning up the homeless encampment is another step on the road to overcoming obstacles for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Collaborating with the city helps our homeless neighbors feel like they have a stake in the community and a chance to be responsible and accountable for their space. By providing folks with a chance to exercise their dignity and care for their environment, the cleanup has been a fulfilling and rewarding experience for all of us.

Eric DeBode is director of Abundant Grace Coastside Worker.

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