The mayor of San Jose standing at a podium holding a microphone
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan speaks Tuesday at the Boccardo Reception Center during a memorial for 201 unhoused people who died in Santa Clara County in 2023. Photo by Joseph Geha.

San Jose’s mayor recently released his 2024 budget message, emphasizing the city’s urgent need to address homelessness.

As a member of the Lived Experience Advisory Board of Silicon Valley, I know firsthand the pain and hardship of this crisis. Yet, the mayor’s proposed plan reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue and a worrying emphasis on short-sighted, budget-driven solutions that will do little to help our most vulnerable residents.

The mayor’s focus is on hiding the problem, not solving it. Time and again, we see resources poured into enforcement tactics — clearing encampments, criminalizing those forced to live in their vehicles — without offering viable alternatives. Where’s the long-term plan? This approach merely shifts the problem from one neighborhood to another while further traumatizing the very people we claim to want to help.

The budget message touts “safe sleeping sites” and expands funding for interim housing, but these are often Band-Aid fixes. What happens after those programs end? The mayor prioritizes the lowest possible price tag, not sustainable solutions rooted in the proven success of permanent supportive housing, which pairs housing with vital services that keep people housed long-term.

Glaringly absent from the mayor’s plan is the involvement of those most impacted by homelessness: the unhoused community. The Lived Experience Advisory Board of Silicon Valley brings a wealth of knowledge to this crisis, yet was never consulted by Mayor Matt Mahan. True progress requires collaboration. It means recognizing our expertise and giving us seats at the decision-making table.

This oversight raises a troubling question: who is the mayor truly prioritizing? It appears his focus is on donors and campaign supporters who want homelessness out of sight, not the individuals suffering on our streets. Empty rhetoric about “compassion” rings hollow when actions reveal otherwise.

True solutions demand we invest in addressing root causes like our affordable housing crisis, inadequate mental health services and stagnant wages that trap people in poverty. The mayor’s plan offers none of this. Instead, it’s a repackaging of the same failed tactics that continue the cycle of displacement and despair.

The Lived Experience Advisory Board of Silicon Valley stands ready to partner with the mayor and City Manager’s Office on solutions that prioritize dignity and long-term stability. Until the mayor and San Jose City Council demonstrate a true willingness to listen to those with lived experience, San Jose will remain a city that cares more about appearances than its most vulnerable residents.

Thomas Knight is a member of the Lived Experience Advisory Board of Silicon Valley.

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