Volunteers, local officials join for large cleanup of San Jose's Coyote Creek

A big cleanup effort Saturday along San Jose’s heavily polluted Coyote Creek included volunteers, city and county officials, community groups, and other agencies.

The mission was not only to help the environment – but also the unhoused living nearby.

The Valley Water District’s homeless encampment committee was on hand while the group cleared out a section of Coyote Creek, Santa Clara County’s longest waterway. 

The trash in the creek is a problem only made worse by the pandemic. 

"During this past year, we have seen a rise in the number of people living in the waterways and along the creek and with that it creates trash and debris," said Richard Santos, Director of the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Volunteers picked up bottles, plastic containers, and other debris that littered the creek and its banks. 

Officials with the Valley Water District say the creek has been heavily polluted from illegal dumpting and treash from nearby encampments. 

The goal was to eliminate these risks to the environment while being respectful of those who live nearby. 

"We are at the intersection of inequalities right now, yet we have so many people who are falling through the cracks," said Alex Lee, Assembly Member for District 25.

"We want to be able to clean up the creeks without harming the people who live along them," said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

Chavez called the cleanup one step in the right direction. The event included outreach for the unhoused. 

"I know we can get everybody housed. I know we can have the clearest creeks. I know we can live in a place where other people want to live in, Chavez said.

Volunteers handed out hot meals, and the city of San Jose exchanged MasterCards for bags of trash through the city’s Trash For Cash program. 

"We know we can’t do this alone and that’s why this cleanup is so important. In order to really make an impact, it will take us all working together, said Tony Estremera, Chair of the Santa Clara Valley Water District.