According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, California had over 150,000 people experiencing homelessness in 2019, a 17% spike from the figures in 2018 and the highest since 2007 . The cost of housing in California is so high that thousands of people end up in the streets every month . The state lacks sufficient housing solutions and the process of getting a new house approved is too expensive, time-consuming, and downright frustrating.
Homelessness has become a nightmarish endemic in the state across several cities and counties, and every new government has had the major challenge of getting as many people as they can off the streets (and while getting people off, dozens more keep flocking in). Non-profit organizations have continued to provide tent communities to at least shelter the homeless, but this doesn’t entirely solve the problem as there are many issues with this solution, especially security.
These tent encampments also constitute health hazards, as it’s a common sight to see trash piling for weeks around people’s shelters, breeding unhealthy conditions and putting their lives at risk. In adverse weather conditions, it becomes impossible to cope outside in these makeshift shelters. Truly, they may help control the surging homeless population in the state, but they are not long-term solutions to the problem.
The first tiny home community in San Jose
In an effort to combat homelessness, the city of San Jose, “The Capital of Silicon Valley,” last Thursday commissioned its first tiny home community, complete with 40 homes, security and resident services . Dubbed The Maybury Bridge Housing Project, the housing community is located AT 1408 Maybury Rd. on a plot of land leased to the city at no cost by Valley Transportation Authority (VTA).
The tiny homes are meant to be a temporary relief from the hassles of living on the streets as residents are expected to stay for only 60 days until they can get permanent shelter, either provided by the city or secured personally. At 80 square feet, the homes are quite small, each fitted with a twin bed, a heating/air conditioning unit, small shelves, and desks. There are several communal bathrooms to be shared by the tenants, as well as kitchens and pantries stocked with food to be managed and distributed accordingly.
Governor of California, Gavin Newsom and Mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo were present at the opening ceremony of the community on Thursday. According to Newsom, projects like this are a start because the homeless have seen enough strife.
“I’m in for the long haul. We own this. We’re not pointing fingers anymore. We own this,” said Newsom. “The work that was done her can quickly be replicated at half the time elsewhere, so I could not be more enthusiastic about where we’re going to be in two or three years.”
“We need to get them housed safely and this is the kind of place where they can be until that apartment opens,” Mayor Liccardo said.
So far, 9 residents have taken their homes in the community and there’s room for 31 more. It’s a wonder the criteria for selecting who goes into these homes because there are over 6,000 homeless persons in San Jose. However, what truly matters is that someone is getting off the streets, and while they can’t help everyone at once, more sites are under construction to ease the endemic (let’s hope they don’t also take years to be completed).
“This is intended to have individuals become acclimated to being part of a community, to learning how to take care of their units, building independent living skills,” said Beatriz Ramos with HomeFirst, a San Jose nonprofit that seeks to house the homeless. “It’s going really, really well. We’re excited to see positive results,” he added.
The organizations involved in the project were happy to note that while people were still moving in, at least one person was already moving out. The woman had found a permanent resident somewhere else, which is the whole idea of the housing project.
Governor Newsom notes that whole the houses may be extremely compact, this is the city’s first tiny housing project and will hopefully be a template for similar communities being built.
“It’s a question of scale. It’s a question of capacity. It’s a question of resolve,” Newsom said. “And so I just want you to know that we are resolved to scale programs like this.”
- Matt Levin, Jackie Botts. California’s homelessness crisis — and possible solutions — explained. Calmatters. https://calmatters.org/explainers/californias-homelessness-crisis-explained/. Retrieved 02-03-2020
- Noah Buyahar and Christopher Cannon. How California Became America’s Housing Market Nightmare. Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2019-california-housing-crisis/. Retrieved 02-03-2020
- Ann Rubin. San Jose’s first tiny home community for the homeless opens. KTVU. https://www.ktvu.com/news/san-joses-first-tiny-home-community-for-the-homeless-opens. Retrieved 02-03-2020