(CNN)The homeless men and women step off the van and get straight to work. They pick up trash and bottles, and as they do, business owners and residents cheer them on -- honking, clapping and even handing out refreshments.
The homeless in San Diego are getting jobs - thanks to a 16-year-old boy
It's part of a pilot program in San Diego that hires homeless people to help clean up the city's streets. And it was started by a 16 year-old boy: Kevin Barber.
Barber got the idea from a TED Talk video showcasing a similar program in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that invited panhandlers to clean local streets in exchange for fair wages and access to city services.
"It just looked really simple, and the statistics were staggering," the high school junior told CNN.
Cities across the country are using programs like the one in Albuquerque to provide hundreds of part-time jobs to the homeless. Barber wanted to implement one in San Diego, which hosts the country's fourth-largest homeless population.
It's an issue the young activist was keenly aware of from conversations he had with his mother, an emergency room physician who interacts with the homeless on a daily basis.
"I see so many people who just don't have many opportunities," Dr. Carolyn Barber said.
So mother and son reached out to the city government to start a trial run of the homeless program.
It's called "Wheels for Change." Participants get paid $11.50 an hour. Kevin's mom felt so strongly about the cause that she donated the funds to pay for the six-month pilot.
The city is considering financing the program moving forward. Local politicians are also getting on board.
"It's a win-win for everybody," said City Councilman Scott Sherman. Employing the homeless population to clean up the city has the added benefit of easing the burden on San Diego's sanitation department.
Several times a week, a van picks up eight to ten pe