SAN JOSE -- The more folk singer Joan Baez got to know about the Downtown Streets Team program to help homeless reclaim their lives, the more she wanted to do something for the local nonprofit.
So she decided to perform a benefit concert.
Oh, and she invited along a couple of her pals: Jackson Browne and Emmylou Harris.
"We're just so lucky to have some friends like this," said Eileen Richardson, the executive director of Downtown Streets Team. "For a nonprofit like us, this is very big."
The three artists, all well-known for their social activism and philanthropy, will be performing for the first time together when they take the stage for an acoustic concert at 7 p.m. Saturday at the San Jose Civic Auditorium. Richardson said the event is expected to draw about 3,000 people and raise "a couple hundred thousand dollars."
Baez's connection to Downtown Streets Team is through longtime friend Jeanne Triolo Murphy, a member of the nonprofit's board of directors.
"Joan watched my excitement about this grow, and she wanted to support it," said Triolo Murphy, who first met Baez when they were youngsters on the Stanford campus, where their fathers were working. "She started coming to some of our gatherings and even sang at a barbecue. She sees how this model works."
The idea of a benefit concert was hatched when the two were talking with a third friend.
"So we started calling around and pleaded our case for Downtown Streets Team," added Triolo Murphy, who previously ran Baez's human rights nonprofit, Humanitas International. "We were thrilled to get Jackson Browne and Emmylou."
Downtown Streets Team, which started in Palo Alto in 2006, uses a work-first strategy to help homeless get back on their feet. People in the program agree to work 20 hours a week in jobs that range from cleaning up local downtown areas to lining soccer fields before recreation games in exchange for vouchers to buy food and shelter.
The organization has seen its budget grow from $40,000 to $4 million annually and has expanded to four other Bay Area locations -- San Jose, Sunnyvale, Gilroy and this month San Rafael -- as well as two franchise sites in Florida. Richardson said they have 350 graduates who now are self-sufficient and independently employed.
Currently there are 100 people in the San Jose program. One of the jobs they do is cleaning up a stretch of Coyote Creek, where some of them once lived.
"We're focusing on maintaining people's dignity," said Richardson, a former CEO at two high-tech companies. "When you give someone a can of tuna, you're stripping them of that. But if they work, and in return they get vouchers for Safeway or help with rent, then they've earned that. Homelessness is traumatic. But how far you go in our program is completely up to you."
Of Baez, Richardson added: "She's just so down to earth, and it's amazing that she wants to help."
At the concert, the three artists will perform separately and also as a trio.
"They've all been texting back and forth about the songs that would be fun to do together," Triolo Murphy said.
Contact Mark Emmons at 408-920-5745. Follow him at Twitter.com/markedwinemmons.
An Acoustic Evening with Joan Baez, Jackson Browne and Emmylou Harris is at 7 p.m., Saturday, at the San Jose Civic Auditorium. For more information on the fundraiser for Downtown Streets Team, which works with the homeless in San Jose, visit www.streetsteam.org