A long-standing homeless shelter north of downtown San Jose is planning an expansion and Santa Clara County officials are hoping to coordinate support for the project.
The Salvation Army’s Emmanuel House shelter at its 359 N. Fourth St. campus is set to grow from 70 beds to 112 during a 10-month renovation project slated for completion by the end of 2024.
The nonprofit is looking for the county’s help with the expansion, which may include funding and assistance in landing temporary homes on the site, county officials said.
County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said the goal is to ensure people who are currently using the shelter and receiving services aren’t disrupted during the renovation.
“(The Salvation Army) have already been leaders in this area serving high need individuals and they are leaning in hard to do more,” Chavez told San José Spotlight. “I think this is an incredible opportunity for us to help them do what they do best, so I’m thrilled about it.”
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 15 unanimously approved looking into funding options and other opportunities to support The Salvation Army’s project, and to bring potential plans back to the board in October.
Chavez also noted the state has provided San Jose 200 tiny homes for unhoused people, and asked staff to work with the city to see if some of those could be placed at The Salvation Army’s 2.3-acre site on Fourth Street.
Glen Gramling, head of The Salvation Army’s local renovation financing campaign, told San José Spotlight the shelter currently offers 28 beds for overnight use and 42 beds for a transitional housing program with longer-term residents.
While the shelter only serves men, the renovation and expansion will allow it to begin serving women. The renovation is part of a planned multi-phase expansion at its San Jose campus to better address the homelessness crisis in the county, Gramling said.
“We believe we can do more to help address homelessness,” Keith Goodwin, advisory board chair in Silicon Valley for The Salvation Army, told the board of supervisors.
The second phase of the expansion is focused on raising funds to build permanent and or supportive housing on the site, targeted for families, seniors and youth, Goodwin said.
Gramling said The Salvation Army is working with Santa Clara County to determine what kind of housing will best fit the lot, including rethinking past plans to build an affordable housing apartment complex.
Chavez said the county will help facilitate options that The Salvation Army can consider for immediate temporary homes and long-term housing needs.
“Every single day and every hour of every day, we should be bringing new available homes, shelter beds or interim housing opportunities forward into our community,” Chavez told San José Spotlight. “The leadership that they’re showing is very exciting, and every beat of the drum gets us closer to making sure everybody in our community has a safe place to lay their head at night.”
Chavez said it’s too early to say what amount of funding the county might consider kicking in to support The Salvation Army’s expansion efforts. She noted the support could come in a variety of forms, such as development planning or loans, among other options. The number of state-funded tiny homes the county is able to secure for the site could also affect the overall cost.
The third phase would include an expansion of the nonprofit’s community center, which would increase the capacity for services already being offered, including rental assistance, food distribution and case management.
Todd Langton, who founded homeless advocacy and assistance programs Agape Silicon Valley and Coalition for the Unhoused of Silicon Valley, is glad to see housing and shelter expansion in the works. But he said the county and city must do more, faster, or they won’t catch up to the pace of people falling into homelessness.
“The politicians love these little photo ops where they put up 20 units here, 50 units there, and it gives the perception that the problem is being solved when it’s not. They’re putting on a Band-Aid when they need a doggone ambulance,” Langton told San José Spotlight.
Data from this year shows nearly 10,000 people are homeless in Santa Clara County, dropping slightly from 2022 in both the county and San Jose.
Langton said the county and Chavez should advocate for putting up hundreds of temporary houses on a portion of the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.
“It can be done quickly, we just have to have the will to do it. We’ve got the land, we’ve got the money, we just need to have the will,” he said.