San Jose wants $29M to expand homeless services
Jonathan Todd Carlson carries some of his belongings as city workers break down his makeshift shelter at homeless camp near Columbus Park on Sept. 1, 2022. Photo by Jana Kadah.

    San Jose plans to spend millions in state funding to house and provide services to the thousands of homeless residents living on city streets.

    The San Jose City Council wants to fund interim housing and a service hotline for unhoused people, in addition to increasing assistance for youth experiencing homelessness. Officials unanimously approved the city’s application Tuesday for the fourth round of funding through California’s Homelessness Housing Assistance and Prevention grant program.

    If approved, the city should receive around $29 million. About 60% will be spent to continue services at five interim housing sites; 16% on street outreach like hygiene programs; 10% on assistance for homeless youth like expanding the motel voucher program to prioritize homeless families with school children; and 7% to create a centralized hotline for homeless services. The remainder will be used for administrative purposes.

    “We’re in a crisis now and it’s not going to get better. It’s certainly not going to get better if we do nothing,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said. “It can get a whole lot worse. It’s hard to imagine because this crisis is as bad as certainly the city’s ever experienced… so there’s simply no excuse for inaction.”

    Homelessness persists in San Jose despite the city investing millions of dollars in programming and thousands being housed over the last year. A homeless count conducted earlier this year shows more than 6,000 unhoused people live in San Jose, an increase of 11% since 2019.

    San Jose has been receiving grant funding since 2019. The funds have been used to build five interim housing sites to accommodate more than 1,200 individuals. The funds were also applied toward a homeless prevention program, saving 72,000 people from homelessness and providing temporary motel vouchers to 1,320 unhoused people, according to the city.

    Gov. Gavin Newsom threatened to withhold San Jose’s third allocation saying city plans were not ambitious enough, but after 10 days approved the $23 million allocation.

    Ragan Henninger, deputy housing director, said funding is prioritized for interim housing because it’s the main reason the city saw a 2% decrease in homelessness since 2019—despite the overall number increasing. She said interim housing sites take residents living in encampments and provide them with case management and other services to help them transition into permanent housing.

    “We’re making significant progress, even though the headwinds aren’t in our favor (because) as we house one person there’s two more new people who enter our homeless system for the first time,” Henninger told San José Spotlight.

    San Jose officials also unanimously approved a $200,000 survey with Santa Clara County to count where and how many residents are living in RVs—a number that is still largely unknown. The money will come from the city’s local housing fund.

    The survey will allow the city to understand the magnitude and locations of RV parking issues and the nature of people’s needs so that it can design solutions appropriate to the scale and complexity.

    In January, the city will open its only safe parking site at the Santa Teresa VTA light rail station and hopes to add more.

    Several residents living in RVs spoke at City Hall to share their struggles and articulate what services they need.

    “I’m still asking you for safe parking. I’m still asking for help. We do need dumpsters, we also need port-a-potties and we need light,” Patricia, who lives in an RV at Columbus Park, said through tears. She did not provide her last name. ” I wish you would just have a little bit of sympathy for us.”

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

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