Jesse James: Giving Jobs to the Homeless
12/02/2006 AT 06:00 AM EST
"Long Beach has a homeless problem," he tells PEOPLE. "I felt the need to step up and help because it wasn't going to magically disappear."
James, 37, who is married to actress Sandra Bullock, decided to reach out to the homeless community last year when Project Achieve, an overnight emergency shelter, opened up across the street from his shop.
The first person he hired was Richard Sihock, a former warehouse worker who had been homeless for almost a year. Sihock is now making $8.50 an hour with the prospect of a raise, and is living in a one-bedroom apartment with his wife.
James is already looking into hiring more people from the shelter. "Not everyone has been as lucky as I have," he says, "and it's time for me to use the success I have been blessed with to help others in Long Beach."
The city's Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal, who has known James for years, told PEOPLE earlier this year about James's generous spirit. "He sees the potential in people and works to give them the same opportunities he's had."
James started his custom-motorcycle business when he was 23 years old. Bullock, 42, shares her husband's passion for charity work, having written million-dollar checks to tsunami and Katrina relief efforts.