Homeless concerns: How the City works with residents to address homelessness in San Jose
Two of my top priorities since taking office have been increasing public safety and productively addressing our City’s homeless crisis. I am committed to exploring the most compassionate, immediate options that benefit all residents of our community.
I understand and sympathize with your concerns related to homelessness and the multitude of encampments that seem to be popping up across our City. My team and I received your emails and phone calls, and we want you to know that we are listening and taking action to address your concerns while simultaneously providing resources and services to unhoused residents.
I would like to explain to you how the City currently handles calls for removal of homeless encampments and shopping carts. Our City’s under-staffed, yet hard working Homeless Concerns Team is tasked with the tremendous responsibility of responding to every resident concern, noticing abatements, removing encampments and shopping carts, and providing outreach to the unhoused individuals.
When Homeless Concerns receives a request for abatement from a resident, a Council Office, or a City Department, the team first must assess the concern for: health and safety issues, size, and environmental impact before taking action. Larger encampments with greater impacts on the environment are prioritized. The prioritized concern enters the queue for abatement and a schedule for noticing is set. This can take several weeks because the City is currently under court mandate to prioritize litter and trash removal as well as maintenance along creek beds and waterways. This means that more than 80% of abatement resources are directed towards cleanups along Coyote Creek, Guadalupe River, and other water tributaries that feed into the San Francisco Bay.
Additionally, case law requires reasonable notice prior to seizing or destroying a person’s belongings. The City Attorney has determined that a minimum of 72 hours notice is sufficient under the Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. Encampments are noticed by posting signage in the area warning of an imminent abatement as well as through communication and outreach from non-profit organizations contracted to provide resources and services to the unhoused residents. After the encampment has been noticed and the minimum 72-hour period has passed, clean-up crews arrive on site to remove tents, debris, and other items left behind.
During most abatements, Homeless Concerns staff allow unhoused residents to take their belongings and even offer storage options for those who need and accept them. All unhoused individuals and families displaced by abatement are offered mental health services, medical care, case management, and emergency shelter. These outreach services are provided by the County of Santa Clara and non-profit organizations, not the City of San Jose. Some individuals accept the services and are placed in shelters while many others choose to relocate their encampment to another area. The abatement process is time consuming, costly, and unfortunately, does not address the root of the problem: a countywide shortage of services and shelter beds.
In addition to cleanups and abatements, San Jose funds various programs intended to provide unsheltered residents with relief from living on the streets, including: Safe Parking programs, Overnight Warming Location (OWL) programs, Bridge Housing Communities, and permanent supportive housing units. Unfortunately, there simply is not enough shelter space for the 6,000+ unhoused individuals on our streets.
I remain committed to pursuing real, thoughtful, and productive solutions to our housing crisis. I have directed City staff to evaluate Bridge Housing Communities, sanctioned encampments, navigation centers, and storage lockers. I have supported Safe Parking programs and Overnight Warming Locations in District 2. I put forth a memorandum recommending zoning changes to reduce regulatory barriers and streamline emergency shelter and transitional housing. I am working with Code Enforcement to improve or City’s shopping cart ordinance to prevent carts from littering our streets.
Solving homelessness in San Jose will require coordination and collaboration among all levels of government and with multiple stakeholders. Together, we must make significant investments in comprehensive wrap-around services that include: compassionate mental health, drug rehabilitation, medical services, job training and assistance, and other needed support to help people become self-sufficient.
And of course, we need to build more affordable and accessible housing for all.
Most importantly, we as a society need to change the narrative around homelessness. We need to approach this crisis with empathy -- not fear. We MUST stop treating houseless individuals differently than our other neighbors simply because they do not have a stable place to call home. We need to accept solutions, developments, and services in all our neighborhoods and all our communities. I hope that as we navigate this statewide housing crisis, we will all treat each other with dignity and respect.
This will not be easy, but I am determined to support and implement a multitude of innovative solutions to address this complex and longstanding problem.
I ask that you stay engaged and become a part of the solution: follow me on Facebook
, and sign up for my newsletter
to receive periodic updates on my policy recommendations to address homelessness, blight, public safety, and more.
HELPFUL CONTACTS FOR HOMELESS CONCERNS:
If you feel unsafe or threatened, immediately call 911.
For non-emergency situations such as noise complaints or parking concerns, call 311 or 408-277-8900.
To report concerns along Union Pacific Railroad tracks, contact: 1-888-877-7267, RMCC_in@up.com
To report concerns in District 10, which borders our District 2 on the west side: Councilmember Johnny Khamis, email@example.com
(Councilmember Khamis represents the west side of Monterey Road, from Senter Road to Branham Lane).
For More Information on the Bay Keeper’s Settlement, click here
Homeless concerns and services
For concerns related to homelessness and encampments in your community, please call 408-975-1440 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Housing Department staff will respond to inquiries within three business days to 1) acknowledge receipt of the concern, and 2) collect any additional details needed. An outreach team will then be deployed to assess the situation, offer services to homeless individuals in the area, and determine the next steps to resolve the reported concern.
If you are homeless and seeking help, please contact the Homeless Helpline at 408-510-7600 or email@example.com. The Helpline is operated by HomeFirst.
Visit the City of San José's Housing Department website for more information about Homeless Services such as: Shelters & Overnight Warming, Bridge (temporary) Housing, Rapid Rehousing, Safe Parking Program, Homeless Resource Guide, and more.
The City of San Jose's Safe Parking Program
People deserve a safe environment to sleep. In 2019, over 6,000 people were counted as experiencing homelessness in San José on any given night and over 1,000 of them sleep in their vehicles.
On May 15, 2019, the City of San José opened a Safe & Supportive Parking program at Southside Community Center to provide a space where homeless individuals living in their vehicles can park and sleep overnight. The program is overseen by the nonprofit Life Moves, which is responsible for providing services, security, trash disposal, and more at the designated Safe Parking sites. The organization will also help families find jobs and housing.
Through this program, we are taking steps to ensure a sense of stability for families and individuals living in their cars as we address our city’s homeless crisis.
If you know anyone who could benefit from the Safe & Supportive Parking program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 669-238-6193 for more information about resources and program eligibility.
About the City's Incidental Shelter Ordinance and how you can get involved:
The City of San José developed a Safe Parking Ordinance that allows private property owners to designate their parking areas in places of assembly for safe parking. The ordinance approved by City Council in February 2019 included amendments to the Municipal Code, specifically to Title 20 of the San José Municipal Code (Zoning Code). The property owner does not need to obtain a permit and may design operations from hours, type of vehicles, and target population. If you are a property owner and interested in partnering with the City of San José on this important endeavor, please contact Lorena Diez with the City of San José’s Homelessness Response Team at (408) 975-4456 or email@example.com
for more information.