With Sacramento’s growing homelessness crisis, veterans’ cleanup firms thrive

SACRAMENTO — It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

An unnamed small business owner along the Alhambra corridor in East Sacramento was outraged. She was fed up with homeless people going to the restroom in front of her store.

“It’s not good for business,” she said.

What they left behind leaves a lot to be desired, and she’s not the only one who feels that way.

“You look at gas stations, some are really bad. Some are really bad,” Juergen Bleeker said.

Bleeker, a military veteran, aims to tackle a growing problem of homeless trash and filth accumulating in places like gas stations and car washes.

“You’ve got needles, you’ve got drugs, there’s paraphernalia all over the place. You have to pick it all up, put it in the trash, put it in the bio bag, and take it away,” he said.

He has been doing this since his retirement in 2005. Business has grown by 30% since the pandemic, he said.

“I have about 21 locations now,” Bleeker said.

Bleeker invested $50,000 in special cleaning equipment that he provides to clients weekly. He’s doing a job no one wants to do.

The price is based on the size of the cleaning area, not more than a few hundred yuan. Business is booming near the homeless encampment.

“You have to find a good location for cleaning,” Bleeker said.

He’s so busy he has to turn away customers — and he sees no signs of a downturn.

“I talked to some guys who had been there for 14 years. They said no one would tell me what to do. I got my money from the state: $1,000 a month. Why go anywhere else?” he said.

The problem is where they’re going frustrates business owners.

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