Lived in vehicles parked alongside a sidewalk
Eight lived-in vehicles are parked on Rose and Lyndale Avenue next to a commercial building in East San Jose. Photo by Joyce Chu.

In the heart of East San Jose, eight cars line a popular street — some with boxes stacked on top or attached wagons — filled with the belongings of homeless people such as Francisco Pulido.

The constant clashes he had with his mom and stepdad compelled him to leave home. The 37-year-old has lived in his car for the last year.

“I blame it on myself,” he told San José Spotlight.

Pulido and other homeless people have raised the ire of East San Jose homeowners, such as Robert Rios who lives a block from where the cars are parked.

In Silicon Valley, the exorbitant cost of living has pitted homeless people against nearby homeowners and neighbors — both parties frustrated with a lack of action and services in one of the world’s wealthiest regions. And tensions are rising between the two sides.

“I’ve been emailing the city and making calls and they have done nothing about it. And it keeps growing,” Rios told San José Spotlight. “It’s just very frustrating.”

Rios said it started with one or two cars about a year ago. Now it can be up to 10 lining the street near his home. Trash piles up on the street and neighbors don’t walk their dogs near the parked cars, he added. Rios and other homeowners said the police offer no help and they’ve turned to East San Jose Councilmember Peter Ortiz to alleviate the issue.

Some neighbors said the city hasn’t addressed their concerns about unhoused residents living in their vehicles. Photo by Joyce Chu.

Despite its tech-driven wealth, San Jose is home to 6,340 homeless people. The county has roughly 10,000 homeless people, and officials say for every one person they house two more are pushed onto the streets.

The San Jose City Council adopted three policies in April limiting where large vehicles can park, where people living in their RVs can sleep overnight and how far encampments can be from schools.

One policy allows the city to tow large vehicles in areas that pose safety hazards for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. The city plans to put up no parking signs in areas where large cars could block people from making a safe turn or pedestrians from crossing the street safely.

Another policy prohibits homeless residents from camping within 150 feet of a school. Those who violate the distance requirement will receive a citation without monetary fines.

Pulido and others are living near a commercial building, about 400 feet from James Lick High School. He avoids downtown and areas by the creek, saying people over there are less “civilized.”

“It’s crazy (over there),” he said.

Rogelio Torres, 74, lives in an apartment near where the lived-in vehicles are parked. He said he feels bad for the unhoused residents. Photo by Joyce Chu.

A woman parked near Pulido tearfully recounted how she recently lost her apartment and custody of her kids. It’s been traumatizing for her to live like this, she told San José Spotlight, and she doesn’t want her family to know she’s out on the streets. She said since she’s been there, she’s been spit on multiple times by a nearby resident.

“People out here on the street are more humble than people out there in society,” Pulido said.

Another man living in his car next to them was in the hospital getting his arm amputated to keep his infection from spreading, Pulido said.

The city has one parking lot at the Santa Teresa VTA light rail station where homeless people living in their vehicles can safely park. The site, which provides 42 spaces for unhoused people, is full. The San Jose City Council approved another safe parking site on Berryessa Road slated to open later this year.

“In the absence of safe parking options, people residing in their vehicles will be asked to adhere to basic ‘good neighbor’ rules to ensure order and cleanliness,” Ortiz, the councilmember for the district, told San José Spotlight. He supported the move to ban encampments near schools. “If they fail to abide by these standards or present challenges in terms of safety, then I take it upon myself to bring in other city departments and request their support.”

On a sunny day earlier this week, a nearby resident avoided the cars with homeless residents — but said he understands the plight they face in pricey Silicon Valley.

“I don’t feel unsafe, I just feel bad for them,” Rogelio Torres, a 74-year-old veteran, told San José Spotlight while walking his French bulldog. “The cost of living here is crazy.”

Contact Joyce Chu at [email protected] or @joyce_speaks on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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