Downtown Streets Team member Leona starts a shift cleaning sidewalks. The program provides skills and work experience to help people who are homeless, or at-risk of becoming homeless, get paid jobs. Photo: Kate Rauch

Downtown Streets Team member Leona starts a shift cleaning sidewalks. The program provides skills and work experience to help people who are homeless, or at-risk of becoming homeless, get paid jobs. Photo: Kate Rauch

On a recent clear, cold afternoon a crew of workers in colorful T-shirts swept downtown Berkeley gutters and sidewalks, collecting trash and raking up yellowed leaves.

Green shirts were team leaders. Yellow shirts marked team members, those who were in earlier stages of the program.

A few of the crew knew the neighborhood well, having slept in doorways or parks, or hung out on benches or stoops passing time until shelter doors open at the end of the day.

Many people familiar with downtown Berkeley have seen the downtown ambassadors, who also wear bright T-shirts and clean public spaces. But this team is new to the city, and different.

The crew is part of a program called Downtown Streets Team which launched in Berkeley in the fall of last year, and is still in ramp-up mode, according to Julia Lang, the Streets Team’s East Bay director. Unlike the ambassadors, who are paid employees, Streets Team members are volunteers, though they receive a stipend in the form of a gift card or help with phone or transportation costs for their time. Read More.