Homelessness & the working unhoused

This is our most dire issue — for our safety and for our humanity. Technology and the new “gig economy” are providing economic strength to Silicon Valley, but it has also rattled the cost of living, causing it to skyrocket. The increases to the cost of living is felt by many of us, resulting in the displacement of far too many. This is compounded by San José’s jobs to housing imbalance, worsening a situation that is already out of control. The recent bi-annual County survey on homelessness showed 42% increase in San José, and 31% countywide. It is imperative we solve this. We need tangible solutions, and we need them now. This will be my number one goal as your Councilmember. My vision includes:

Working together — regional cooperation and utilizing current resources to get people off the streets and out of parks and creeks

Solutions for homelessness and support for unhoused people will not come from City Hall alone, this is a regional issue. We need full cooperation from municipalities, agencies and private-public partnerships in order to solve this. This is a crisis that demands political will, not platitudes.

In 2016 Santa Clara County voters passed Measure A, a near $1 billion bond to fund housing projects to get people off the streets and expand the affordable housing options for our working families. While these funds are being allocated, the process is not able to keep up with the need, and the need grows bigger each day. For every unhoused person that finds new housing, three new people become homeless.

As your Councilmember, I will work with regional partners and also connect with advocates and leaders from across California to find service providers and explore solutions that are working to help their residents. In short, we need innovative, cost effective, timely and humane solutions — including mental health and addiction services for the chronically homeless, along with deliberative actions to stem the tide of displacement.

Recognizing the faces of homelessness — the unhoused at-risk youth, LGBTQ, families, and even our colleagues at work 

Working on this issue during my time at City Hall, I saw the real face of homelessness. Too often we visualize the face as someone with mental health or addiction issues, incapable of holding a job, a demonized class that many have written off. The reality is this:

20% are employed
40% are over the age of 51
16% are under the age of 25
20% identify as LGBTQ
20% are or have been foster youth
27% are survivors of domestic abuse or violence
83% are residents from Santa Clara County

We need to deliver services and provide facilities that reflect the real faces and needs of the unhoused. Additionally, we must prevent vulnerable groups like our senior citizens and others from being the most prone to housing insecurity.

With only two large shelters open year-round and full nearly every night, the need for additional support is high. The faces are as different each night as the circumstances that brought them there. They need better options, but since no new solutions have been created, these shelters and their cars become home, and too many are left on the streets.  

Taking action now — safe parking locations and utilizing the spaces we already have, finding the right spaces for the unhoused and preserving safety for families

Housing lotteries, encampment sweeps, and the lack of safe parking locations are not helping our unhoused neighbors. Making homeless people compete for a spot while having to move from location to location only worsens their conditions, and without stable support, our parks, creeks and neighborhood streets become the only option.

City, regional and inter-agency cooperation takes time in order to open new facilities and housing options, advancing the safe parking program is a short-term ready solution. I want to see us address this issue before things worsen, as some areas in San José are already becoming defacto spots for RVs and vehicle dwellers.

We continue to hear hundreds of ideas, but we keep ending up with zero progress that actually reduces homelessness. Instead, the issue grows worse. The places that we seek for solutions need to work for everyone involved. District 10 is unique, with vast open spaces, but primarily utilized as parks and recreation areas, and the majority of our neighborhoods are single-family homes. Citywide, we have viable options and ready locations for either short-term or long-term solutions.

Each facet of this issue is a challenge on it’s own, and this crisis is forcing us to do many things all at once. We can support working unhoused people while also balancing the needs of chronically homeless people, and those with mental health and addiction needs. San José’s housing crisis must be met with the moral imperative it deserves, for all of us.