Editor’s note: This is the second post in a series of videos about the Downtown Streets Team.
While Lovely Nakooka would like to have a regular job, she isn’t doing much to find full-time employment right now. That’s because she’s spending most of her time trying to find a steady place to live.
Nakooka is one participant in the new Downtown Streets Team program, which provides gift cards refundable for food or housing as well as services to help the participants — mostly who are homeless or precariously housed — in exchange for literally cleaning up the streets in downtown San Rafael.
Nakooka, a Downtown Streets Team leader who oversees a group of four to five people each morning, grew up in Marin’s foster care system and “fell through the cracks,” she said. When she was kicked out the program at the age of 18, she ended up living on the streets.
Nakooka, now AGE, said she has mainly used the gift cards to pay for her monthly phone bill, but the funds also helped her do something she never could do before — she threw a birthday party for her nieces and nephews for the first time. She’s also getting support from the program’s staff — a team of two — to get her drivers license back.
She said the program, which she considers “volunteer work,” has motivated her to get more of her life in order. Hear her speak in the above video.
“It makes me feel a lot better about myself and giving back to the community,” she said. “We get all these nice ‘thank yous’ in the morning. It makes me feel really good by the end of the day.”