Hope Village residents move into motel, relocation on hold
Hope Village resident, Charles Nelson, 64, stands outside his tent with his dog, Lucky, before relocating temporarily to a motel. Photo by Kyle Martin.

    With a deadline looming to move the Hope Village homeless encampment and county officials abandoning relocation plans, residents are temporarily being moved into motel rooms.

    “Given that they have to vacate the site, we have offered and most of them, except for one or two, have accepted moving into motels for about 30 days,” said Ky Le, director of the Santa Clara County Department of Supportive Housing. “And that will give us time to figure out how to connect them to other temporary housing programs, and maybe some long-term housing programs.”

    County housing officials have until March 30 to find a new spot for the encampment. Officials abandoned a plan to move the homeless camp to Willow Glen after backlash from the community during a heated March community meeting. The proposal would have included an expansion to about 30 living structures, along with renaming it Compassion Village.

    “We’re going to make sure that the outreach staff connect with them on a regular basis and provide some case management, but the idea is to sort of assess what their needs are and connect them to sort of long-term programs,” Le said. “Right now we’re mainly just focused on having a place to land, post-March 30.”

    Le said about 14 of the village residents had agreed to move into motels temporarily by Wednesday afternoon, and the last few had not been reached yet.

    Hope Village residents prepared to be pushed back onto the streets after being forced to move from the encampment’s current location on Ruff Drive because the Federal Aviation Administration deemed the current location unsafe.

    “It was a little scary because we thought we were going to have nowhere to go,” said Hope Village resident Kelly Blake.

    Blake, a 53-year-old woman who lives with a physical disability, said she got robbed twice in two days while she slept outside with only a sleeping bag and a few personal belongings. She slept under a stairwell near Downtown San Jose when she got robbed the second time. She had lived in Hope Village since October.

    “I didn’t know where to go to be safe. I felt like a fugitive,” she said.

    Finding Hope Village was a change for her — a transition to safety and regular showers, if only for just a short while. “It gave me my dignity,” she added. “When I came here… it saved my life.”

    She is among the Hope Village residents who will move into a motel for about a month. Blake said she was stressed about ending up homeless again leading up to the denial of the Hope Village relocation to Willow Glen.

    Blake considers the other Hope Village residents her family.

    Charles Nelson, 64, another homeless resident of Hope Village, is also temporarily moving into a motel.

    “A motel is not a bad thing for me,” Nelson said. He lived along Coyote Creek for about two years prior to the sanctioned encampment. He expressed his gratitude for the six months he was able to stay in Hope Village.

    “It got me out of the creek,” Nelson said. “It got me a job. It’s safe. You can leave your stuff, go to work, come back and it’s all going to be there.”

    Nelson said he’s “very grateful” for the six months at Hope Village. He added that it’s “sad” that the encampment’s future looks dim, though he’s used to the idea of instability, having been homeless for years.

    Le said funding for the motel vouchers comes from the county’s general fund, but declined to disclose the costs until “we have all of the rates locked in.” The plan is to transition the tenants into longer-term housing, Le said.

    “After 30 days, we’re not going to have a problem finding them a temporary plan,” he said. “We have 2,600 or more shelter beds, so we’re going to use some of those.”

    As far as the relocation of Hope Village, Le said, county staff is focused on the temporary relocation of residents, and “we are not looking at a relocation of Hope Village itself.”

    Contact Kyle Martin at [email protected] or follow him @Kyle_Martin35 on Twitter.

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