Habitat for Humanity to build 308 new shelter beds in San Jose
San Jose City Hall is pictured in this file photo. Photo by Loan-Anh Pham.

San Jose is about to get more than 300 new interim shelter beds in modular housing units, built by Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley, officials announced Thursday.

The new modular homes will serve as emergency housing for homeless residents and allow those who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus to isolate during the pandemic. Once the pandemic passes, the homes will stay up as transitional housing run by affordable nonprofit developer Bridge Housing Community.

“This pandemic has reinforced the importance of housing, and the critical need for safe, decent housing for all of our community,” Janice Jensen, CEO of Habitat or Humanity said in a statement. “Habitat is proud to take part in a solution that not only provides emergency shelter in the near term, but continues putting more of our neighbors on the path to permanent housing long after.”

The news comes as San Jose caught heat for its role in the sudden closure of 90 trailers for homeless residents at risk of COVID-19. City officials cited the high costs of maintenance and upkeep of the state-provided trailers. Residents were moved to hotel rooms, though advocates say some ended up on the streets again.

Lawmakers this year approved the three sites for emergency modular housing, a decision that was controversial in some areas. Even so, the projects will be built on “an aggressive design and construction schedule” in the coming months as the virus continues to spread across Santa Clara County.

Of the new beds set to become available, 108 will be spread across modular units on Evans Lane, east of Willow Glen; 78 will be developed in South San José at Bernal and Monterey roads; and 120 will be built on Caltrans-owned land at Rue Ferrari and the Silicon Valley Boulevard onramp for northbound Highway 101.

The first to open next month will be the Bernal and Monterey roads emergency shelter site. Habitat for Humanity is already working on preparing the other two development sites for the shelters. The modular units are constructed off-site. The Evans Lane project will be for families, so some units will have more than one bed.

The SHP Foundation, an affiliate of Palo Alto-based developer Sand Hill Property Co., will donate the modular units for the Evans Lane site.

“As an immigrant, I am very thankful for the education and opportunities here in California,” SHP Foundation founders, Susanna and Peter Pau, said in a statement. “We are in the real estate field, and we feel the pain of the housing crisis. As Christians, we want to give back to care for the less fortunate and vulnerable.”

Despite coordinated efforts, San Jose remains the epicenter of Silicon Valley’s homelessness crisis.

When the coronavirus outbreak hit the region, the city had an estimated 5,117 unsheltered residents, which accounted for 84 percent of the city’s homeless population. Meanwhile, the city had less than 850 shelter beds at the time.

“To end homelessness, teamwork will make the dream work,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said. “We’re incredibly blessed to expand our relationship with two great partners, Habitat for Humanity and WeHOPE.”

Contact Janice Bitters at [email protected] or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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