Governor Gavin Newsom announced $200 million in additional funding for Project Homekey, a program to house the homeless, and joined Mayor Sam Liccardo Oct. 23 on Bernal Road in San Jose to celebrate the opening of one of three new emergency interim housing centers.
Homekey funding has made it possible for California cities to build more long-term housing options for homeless residents during the pandemic. San Jose recently acquired the Sure Stay Best Western for housing purposes using Homekey funds.
The new emergency housing sites in San Jose — funded by the state’s Homeless Housing Assistance and Prevention Program — will shelter more than 300 people including Sandy, who attended the opening with her dog, Bubbles. Sandy has been homeless for the past 6 years.
“I feel like I’m home. I want to thank the mayor, the city, the county for doing a project like this for us,” Sandy said. “This has been the greatest thing to happen to me in all these years.”
She said she has floated from shelter to shelter, battling addiction and abuse. She said she was sexually assaulted at two shelters and another wanted to separate her from her dog, so she left.
After securing a spot at Bernal Monterey Emergency Interim Housing, Sandy said she finally feels safe and has a space of her own where her family can come visit.
The site has 78 individual bedrooms and a common room that includes a kitchen, laundry facilities, computer rooms and support offices. The city will work with the county’s Office of Supportive Housing to place residents.
Liccardo said the city has faced a number of challenges in making housing options available to residents such as Sandy. The costs of such projects are steep and the wait time is long — four to five years with an average cost of $700,000 per apartment building, according to Liccardo.
“With nearly 10,000 homeless residents in their county, that $700,000 a unit becomes a $7 billion challenge,” Liccardo said.
The city partnered with groups such as Habitat for Humanity and other lawmakers to help expedite the process and reduce costs. “We are constructing these three developments serving more than 300 residents not in four to five years, but in four or five months,” Liccardo said.
The apartments cost the city about $85,000 per unit, according to Liccardo.
Assemblymember Ash Kalra, who also attended the event, authored Assembly Bill 1745, signed into law by Newsom in 2019. The bill gave San Jose more time to build units for unhoused residents, making the interim project possible.
“San Jose is showing we can do it — that it is possible to take on one of the biggest crises of our lifetime,” Kalra said.
Since July, Project Homekey has distributed more than $800 million in funds to cities across California in 78 jurisdictions.
“We are not walking away from our commitment,” Newsom said. “We’ve seen what has happened to this state as it relates to the issue of homelessness. We recognize our responsibility to do more.”
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