Suspicious death stirs San Jose homeless housing complex residents
Second Street Studios residents Raymond Ramsey, Cecilia Martin and Sal. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

    Formerly homeless residents are on edge following a suspicious death at a downtown San Jose homeless housing complex.

    A woman who was visiting a tenant died early Monday morning at Second Street Studios, according to residents, the San Jose Police Department and housing provider First Community Housing. A group of residents are pushing the complex’s management for answers.

    Residents say they were kept in the dark about the death and it’s a growing pattern with management—they have to find out what happens in the complex through the rumor mill. Concerns about safety, they claim, have been rebuffed by management, and residents have had difficulty setting up meetings with security and management to address their concerns.

    Two security officers check guests in and patrol the area, but residents say it’s not enough.

    “We keep telling management that they need input from the tenants,” resident Raymond Ramsey told San José Spotlight. Ramsey is the co-founder of the Second Street Tenants Association, a group of residents who lobby both management and local leaders for changes in the complex. “They disregard us. We keep saying that if they don’t listen to us, someone is going to die here. And Monday, it finally happened.”

    If the incident Monday became a hostile situation, residents believe the facility’s understaffed security wouldn’t have been able to handle it.

    The exterior of Second Street Studios. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

    This isn’t the first time the downtown complex, which is the first permanent supportive housing complex in San Jose, has been plagued by controversy. Tenants last year complained about unfair rules, such as not allowing overnight guests, allowing guests to come in indiscriminately and unreasonable threats of eviction, including a whopping 430 lease violations handed out in 10 months. Residents also say they were promised amenities such as a community garden and workout rooms—but those promises fell through.

    In September, Ramsey blew the whistle on an alleged COVID hospitalization in the complex. According to a San José Spotlight report, residents weren’t notified about the infection until Ramsey asked Abode Services, the facility’s service provider, through email.

    Abode Services did not return calls for comment.

    The San Jose Police Department released a statement to Second Street Studios residents Wednesday, which was posted on the facility’s front door. Residents also received a recorded message on their smartphones from the facility’s alert system.

    Investigators say there are “no obvious signs” that the person was murdered. According to spokesperson Sgt. Christian Camarillo, the incident is a suspicious death as a result of a fall.

    “What is important to know is that we have no reason to believe that anyone—staff or resident—are in danger as a result of this tragedy,” said Capt. Brian Shab in a statement.

    A statement from the San Jose Police Department was posted on Second Street Studios’ entrance Wednesday. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

    According to First Community Housing spokesperson Deborah McClellan, the person who died was a guest of a resident who’s lived there for less than a month. McClellan declined to comment further citing the ongoing SJPD investigation. She provided San José Spotlight a statement that was also sent to residents.

    “It is understandable that news of this tragedy may be a source of anxiety for residents, and we urge anyone needing support to contact Abode Services,” the statement read.

    First Community Housing developed and opened Second Street Studios in May 2019, while Abode provides social and supportive services such as mental health and life skills classes to residents there.

    “Anytime there’s an incident, Abode start talking it down,” resident Sal told San José Spotlight. He declined to give his last name. “They have absolutely no regard for our safety.”

    Grief counselors, according to residents, haven’t been provided either.

    That has the tenant association, along with their neighbors, hoping management will step up with solutions.

    “I don’t care about all the rumors, because they’re just rumors,” resident Cecilia Martin told San José Spotlight. “But what is wrong with telling your tenants that someone passed away? We should be allowed to know that. We live here 24/7.”

    Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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