San Jose sweeps homeless providing limited services
The Four Corners encampment at the junction of Monterey Highway and Capitol Expressway was cleared out during the end of October. Photo by Ben Irwin.

Mary Cruz Resendez has been living on and off the streets of San Jose since 2008. Her home for the last eight months has been at Four Corners, an encampment of about 40 people at the junction of Monterey Highway and Capitol Expressway.

After struggling with addiction for years, Resendez told San José Spotlight she’s now clean and going to school to become a drug counselor — although she’s still struggling with homelessness.

“We’re not all bad people,” Resendez told San José Spotlight. “I’m doing something with my life, but it’s going to take time … It’s not like I want to be out here.”

On Oct. 23, time was not on Resendez’s side. The city took Resendez’s trailer full of her belongings and without her consent, she said, as a part of a multi-day sweep to clear out Four Corners, which sits on county land.

“That was uncalled for,” Resendez said. “My trailer wasn’t garbage, but it got thrown out.”

A Santa Clara County spokesperson said the county granted permission to the city to clear out Four Corners after conditions at the encampment had “deteriorated” from a recent homicide, suicide, overdoses and arson. During the week of the sweep, a major dwelling at the encampment was burned to the ground as well.

As of Oct. 30, San Jose has cleared 232 encampments, City Spokesperson Daniel Lazo said. That’s six less than last year and 20 more than in 2021. Lazo said the city does not keep track of how many people it sweeps from encampments.

The county spokesperson said the city could sweep the encampment under the condition it make a “reasonable effort to provide shelter and other services” for those living there.

A city spokesperson said nine people who lived at Four Corners were connected to services: One person was moved into interim housing, six people were connected to HomeFirst for ongoing case management and one couple was moved into safe parking. But the county reported that roughly 40 people lived there at the time of the sweep, leaving about 31 without assistance or anywhere to go.

According to San Jose’s housing department, there are no shelter beds available and more than 200 people are waiting to be placed into supportive housing in the city. Resendez said she has an RV that doesn’t run, but she has nowhere else to go.

“What kind of help can they offer us when there’s nothing to offer?” Resendez told San José Spotlight. “Where are we going to go with short notice?”

Lazo said the city first gave notice to the Four Corners residents Oct. 13 with signs posted in the area, and again on Oct. 16 after the notices were removed.

“Maybe (getting notice) two months ahead of time so we can get things (in order),” Resendez said. “People have different situations they’re going through. That’s why they’re out here. Do you guys (the city) really not care where we go?”

Homeless advocate Gail Osmer, who spends time helping the unhoused at Four Corners, told San José Spotlight it doesn’t feel like the city honored its part of the agreement to provide shelter and supportive services.

“If they’re going to continue to abate on county land,  (Santa Clara County) needs to follow through with the city,” Osmer said. “The city housing (department) dropped the ball on this.”

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan has floated the idea of adding safe sleeping sites— supervised outdoor living spaces with supportive services—to the city’s long-running list of homelessness responses.

“Our homeless neighbors are losing their lives in unmanaged encampments,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “We currently have a long waitlist for interim shelter, which shows that we can and should expand immediate alternatives to the encampments.”

Contact Ben at [email protected] or follow @B1rwin on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

Leave a Reply