California City Bribes Its Homeless to Clean Their Tent Towns With $20 Gift Cards

Did your mom ever bribe you to clean your room?

If she did, perhaps she now works for the city of Elk Grove.

As reported by CBS 13 Wednesday, the California town is offering gifts to people for cleaning their tents.


Just 15 miles from the state capital sit homeless encampments which residents have had to tidy up with a ton of their taxes.

At some point, officials had an orderly idea.

Hence, to a mega-money-saving tune, local government will now give homeless people $20 gift cards to keep things clean.

According to ABC 10, the cards can be used to purchase food and personal hygiene products at stores such as Dollar Tree and Raley’s.

City of Elk Grove Housing and Public Services (HPS) Manager Sarah Bontrager told CBS Sacramento she believes it’s a pioneering program:

“As far as I know, we are the first.”

The clean sweep of incentives will hopefully mop away some of the ongoing gripes:

“We need to reduce the amount of public complaints that we’re getting.”

It’s a simple system, and it works: Clever campers can cash in each time they take out the trash.

Elk Grove Police Department Homeless Outreach Officer Jennifer McCue noted the difference dollars have made:

“We’d go there, it would just be a massive mess, we’d spend hours just cleaning and cleaning, but now we go there and their bags are ready.”

Tent-dweller Ashley Ross said she was “shocked, in all honesty.”

“Just because I’m homeless,” she continued, “doesn’t mean I don’t care.”


Speaking to Channel 10, one resident gave the city props for trying to improve itself:

“It’s cool that Elk Grove stepped their game up, and at least they’re trying to do something.”

Officer Jennifer sees good things:

“They actually don’t like to live like this, so having that sense of community and pride keeping their area clean has really shown.”

While the gift card system is costing under ten grand, previously — HPS Manager Sarah noted — the city might spend that in just one month “doing the regular cleanups.”

And wait — there’s more:

“What we’ve discovered with our incentive program is that we’re actually building relationships. They’re excited when we come every other Wednesday for junk and rubbish cleanups.”

It sounds the same as garbage pickup in any good ol’ American neighborhood.

No word on what they’re doing for a sewage system.

Meanwhile, the plan might pick up in towns across the country.

Just ask Sarah:

“We’ve had other jurisdictions that have expressed interest in creating a similar program just looking at the savings that we had and the impact on our community.”

As Joe Biden moves to increase the scope of Washington — and as we continue the trajectory of life-giving government catalyzed by COVID-19 — perhaps we’ll all eventually be paid.


Raking your leaves, cutting your grass, recycling your waste…maybe even flushing your toilet — all these may one day get you a governmental gold star. Or a nifty gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse.

We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, in Elk Grove — thanks to the Cares Act and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (read: you) — a community’s cleaning up its act.



See more pieces from me:

Unbelievably Unwoke: Florida Attempts a Bill Guaranteeing ‘Intellectual Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity’ at Colleges

The Racism of Trees? Portland School Presses Pause on a Proposed Mascot Due to Its Terrible Ties

When Are Jokes Not Funny? ‘The Office’ Gets Pummeled as Problematic — by an Actress on the Show

Find all my RedState work here.

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