San Jose secures $3M for homeless housing sites
Cheryl Fleming has stayed at the SureStay hotel in San Jose for more than two years. She's standing in front of a staircase that the city rebuilt in early 2022. File photo by Tran Nguyen.

    San Jose is using its slice of a $1.7 trillion federal spending package to address ongoing homelessness.

    South Bay congressional leaders Ro Khanna, Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren have secured more than $3 million to fund case management, food services and security at two different temporary housing sites in San Jose—the SureStay Hotel and Marbury Bridge Housing. Though housing advocates emphasize funding should go toward permanent housing to address the root of the problem, local leaders say it can make a notable difference for people staying at the two sites.

    “Everything we can get to help with our interim housing solutions are funds that will help us provide better services, provide a better place to stay and more places to stay,” Councilmember Dev Davis told San José Spotlight. “When it’s this kind of rainy and stormy weather, this news is even more welcome.”

    Most of the money—$2.5 million—will be used for operations at the 76-room SureStay Hotel, which provides temporary housing and case management to homeless residents. The remaining $725,000 will go to the Mabury Bridge Housing site in North San Jose to fund site operations for a whole year. Mabury is one of the first quick-build interim housing sites in the city.

    Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has long touted the success of interim housing sites like Marbury in reducing street homelessness, previously saying the number of people visible on the streets has decreased because of quick-build temporary housing sites. Yet San Jose’s homeless population continues to increase.

    The SureStay Hotel is one of San Jose’s first repurposed hotel projects purchased with nearly $12 million of Project Homekey dollars. It’s designed to shelter homeless seniors and couples, and provide services like food and case management to help residents transition to permanent housing.

    After two years of dirty water pouring out of faucets, mold and holes in the ceiling, the city removed itself and a service provider from the hotel-turned-housing project. San Jose remains in charge of operations, but will no longer manage the downtown site with it transfers the title to the Santa Clara County Housing Authority in a few months. The federal dollars will help fund services for residents like case management, security and food delivery for the next few years until the site turns into permanent supportive housing. The county housing authority and Jamboree Co. will manage SureStay at that point.

    “It’s the the operations part of interim housing that differentiates them from shelters,” Davis said. “That’s what’s necessary to keep people housed and to get them stabilized.”

    Jacky Morales-Ferrand, director of housing, said while the city has chosen to spend money on operational costs, it could change course and fund new housing construction as well.

    The city is set to receive roughly $29 million from the state early this year to curb homelessness—of which 60% will be spent to continue services at five interim housing sites. San Jose has been receiving state grant funding for homelessness since 2019. Funds were used to build homes for more than 1,200 individuals. The money also went to a homeless prevention program, saving 72,000 people from homelessness and providing temporary motel vouchers to 1,320 unhoused people, according to the city.

    Sandy Perry, president of the Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County, noted interim housing puts a dent in the homelessness problem—but is not a permanent solution. He said San Jose needs hundreds of millions of dollars from the state and federal government to fund more permanent affordable housing to stop homelessness.

    “They’re all talking about stepping up more temporary housing, and it’s all fine except what people really need is permanent housing and for rents to stop increasing,” Perry told San José Spotlight. “There’s no reason we can’t have that other than the government not putting out enough money for it.”

    Davis said solving homelessness is about striking the right balance between quick, temporary solutions while waiting for permanent housing to be funded and built.

    “We can’t put all our eggs in the permanent supportive housing basket. We need to ensure that there are permanent places for people to stay, while also working hard to get as many people off the streets as possible,” Davis said. “It can’t be all of one or all of the other and every little bit helps.”

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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