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Homeless / Houseless Population

The most recent census put the number of homeless people in San Jose on a given night at 4,350. Seventy-four percent of them are unsheltered and 28 percent have been homeless for years. homeless residents already live in our neighborhoods—in our streets, parks, and creeks. Living outside subjects each of those individuals—and the entire community— to extraordinary risk of harm. Our neighborhoods will be far safer, cleaner, and more livable if these same individuals have housing.” The number of unsheltered children, families and young adults continues to rise. As does the homeless death toll, which saw a 164 percent increase from 2011 to 2016, according to a recently released report by Santa Clara County’s Medical Examiner-Coroner.


The voter approval of hundreds of millions of dollars in affordable housing funds for the homeless—on the ballot as Measure A—indicates that our City believes that more low-income, transitional and supportive housing needs to get built. San Jose’s plan to build tiny cottages for the homeless ran into vocal opposition, with people at one meeting literally chanting “build a wall” to block out the impoverished. This translates to, while yes, the residents of our City agree that a problem exist, but look for a solution, which we have already voted to fund, be found in an area not in their own back yard.

“This merely marks the beginning of many difficult conversations with our community about how and where we can house our neediest residents in the city of San Jose,” Liccardo wrote. “Our failure to successfully engage our community now will mean that our voters’ approval of $700 million of Measure A funding for homeless housing will go for naught.”


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San Jose State University has studied in detail and addressed this issue, presenting the results of their study in a paper with pragmatic solutions: 

DOC]Proposal for Homeless Villages in Santa Clara County

www.sjsu.edu/cec/docs/HomelessVillagesinSantaClaraCountyproposal.docx


The proposals in this study must be seriously considered as we go forward as the best City, on the cutting edge and setting the standard. Here I will provide you with the proposal in pertinent part. These are pragmatic solutions, in the best interest of all.


Proposal for Homeless Villages in Santa Clara County


Current Issues:

● Immediate and short term transitional shelter is needed

● Santa Clara County & City of San Jose seemingly lack the political will to address this critical and moral need

● We need to “respectfully relocate” homeless individuals and families from encampments along the Coyote Creek and Guadalupe River


Recommendations:

It is inappropriate to view a TSHE (Transitional Self Help Encampment) or Homeless Village as a permanent solution for homelessness. Rather, it is clearly a transitional project and does not replace the need for permanent housing. It is also important to keep in mind that a TSHE is not suitable for every homeless individual, as it requires a degree of independent living capacity that not all those living on the streets actually possess. Also, each TSHE has developed its own identity and has determined what type of camp it was going to be and what needs it was going to serve.

Purpose/Goals:

While the overall goal of the TSHE (Transitional Self Help Encampment) is to provide temporary shelter, the research shows that TSHEs have a variety of different secondary goals and objectives. Some TSHEs focus on providing the additional social services that the homeless need to re-enter mainstream society (Ventura and Tampa). Some TSHEs are designed to operate as independent communities of the homeless (Portland). While others focus on providing temporary shelter for the homeless, the majority of whom have jobs, but are still unable to cover the cost of independent housing (Fresno). However, an underlying characteristic of all four TSHEs is that they were started with significant input and involvement from the homeless themselves. (CSUMB)

Additional reasons for establishing homeless villages include:

● Empowerment

● Self-Help

● Self-Sufficiency

● Sanitary Living

● Strive to transition these homeless to independence and affordable housing

Possible Locations:

● SJSU Lot 3 (for current homeless students)

● Santa Clara County Fairgrounds

● Work with the Diocese of San Jose and the Council of Churches to negotiate for small plots on Church grounds where a “village” of some 5-10 selected individuals or families could reside, if the City or County would provide necessities that the Churches couldn’t.

● Village can be located on properties owned by municipalities or on properties owned by nonprofit organizations


I strongly encourage everyone to review this proposal in its entirety.

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I believe we must also look at the root cause. We must consider Homeless / Houseless populations in 2 categories, with one of the two having 2 sub-categories.


• Category 1: individuals and families who have found themselves in this tragic circumstance as a result of circumstances beyond their control. While making all efforts to be a productive member of society, a life-altering, traumatic event resulted in the loss of house and comfort. In this circumstance, these individuals and families need a hand up, not a handout, to regain their desire to be contributing, and providing for themselves and their family basic needs.


• Category 2:      a) Individuals effected by Mental Health Issues. There are various programs throughout the Country which are successfully addressing Mental Health issues, providing necessary services which enable one afflicted with these problems the resources necessary to overcome and fall back into society. Even the most fiscal conservative would agree that if the end cost is far greater than addressing a problem up front, we must consider the options available to us. This would also improve Public Safety concerns, and if properly applied, through a program such as the Memphis Project, Crisis Intervention Team Core Elements, the end result would be improvement in Public Safety, as well as an opportunity for properly addressing Mental Health concerns resulting with a reduction in Homeless/Houseless population, and           b) Individuals who fall into the category of Drug Addiction. Drug addiction is not unique to our City. A result of severe addiction is oftentimes homelessness / houselessness. Incarceration of a drug addict will cost the tax payer in excess of $120,000 annually, only for that individual to be released onto the streets and fall back into the same pattern. Again, we must address the core problem of addiction. A recovering addict, who is provided the proper support system, is far less costly to taxpayers. There are programs in effect around our Country for both of the sub-categories presented here. The City must investigate, and determine which program best fits our needs.


Similar to the responsibility of dealing with persons with mental health issues when they are in crisis, police officers are also tasked with being the frontline professionals who confront the homeless population to keep our neighborhoods safe. Oftentimes, this is the same population. And, the same principles provide the rationale for police officers to shoulder this burden; police officers are entrusted with the power and authority to protect the safety and welfare of the community, as well as protect individuals with disabilities. The SJPD initiative dubbed “Operation Care”, to build trust with the homeless population, is a project that approaches the problem with compassion. But, police officers cannot be expected to tackle this issue alone. The cost of homelessness on the community at large is high. There does appear to be a paradigm shift in the making, with a commitment of many to resolve this issue.


The combined effort of City and private corporation resources is a good step. The City of San Jose, with the support of voter approved funding is indicative of a sincere commitment to resolve this problem through a holistic approach. The problem is not going away on its own. “Tiny homes” are one of many ways Silicon Valley is trying to deal with its growing population of homeless residents. The collaborative effort of City, Faith based groups and other non-profit organizations, and private corporations and individuals indicates a widespread commitment to solve this problem. In this approach, we must also consider the mental health aspect, and the root of the homeless problem. 


 Once again, a systemic approach will be inclusive of consideration of mental health issues as they relate to the homeless. I support confronting the problem on the front end, working towards a solution, as opposed to a more costly, reactionary method of confronting problems that arise from the ever-growing homeless population.