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San Jose Homelessness Update

A homeless San Jose man cooks dinner. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez

A panel of professional staff and community leaders met at the San Jose City Council on Friday October 20 to review current efforts to prevent homelessness in Santa Clara County. There are now (2017) an estimated 7,400 homeless individuals living in Santa Clara County, 70 percent of whom were found to suffer from a disabling physical or mental health condition. One study concluded that managing homelessness rather than ending homelessness is costing county taxpayers an estimated $520 million per year.

“Our collective vision is to end homelessness in Santa Clara County,” declared San Jose Director of Housing Jacky Morales-Ferrand. “We will have a systemic response in place so that homelessness is prevented or is a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience.”

San Jose Acting Deputy Director of Housing Ray Bramson pointed to three key factors as the root causes of homelessness in California: the loss of affordable housing funding, that wages and public assistance have not kept pace with the cost of living, and the closing of state psychiatric institutions.

“Simply put, renters are paying more than they used to, and they’re making less, so we’re seeing people fall into homelessness.” said Bramson. Deinstitutionalization “meant that there is no place for people [with psychiatric conditions] to go, and there isn’t adequate support and care for people who need it the most.”

“I talk to a lot of Mayors in a lot of cities and everyone is struggling with this in a huge way,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “Nobody’s figured this out.”

Santa Clara County Director of Supportive Housing Ky Le summarized the county’s Supportive Housing System, “a set of programs tailored to individuals needs.” The programs include Homelessness Prevention, Transitional Housing, Rapid Rehousing, and Permanent Supportive Housing. “Not all homeless individuals and families face the same barriers,” said Le.

“We’d rather not be homeless, but since we are we need to be treated like human beings rather than animals,” said homeless resident Lorrette Quiroz, who complained of San Jose’s “sweepers” who confiscate and throw away personal possessions when they remove homeless residents from an area.

“We are the most innovative area, not just in the nation, but in the world,” said resident Jacky. “There is no reason that we cannot bring dignity to the people in our community who need it most.”

“Compassion without action is nothing,” said City Council member Sergio Jimenez. “Our goal is to make intelligent decisions and putting things into action.”

But in the case, the City Council took no action, as the homelessness review was an informational study session.