By Deb Kramer
Homelessness has been a huge barrier to restoring many of our waterways in the South Bay. The persistence of people living on the banks of our creeks has brought not only environmental damage to the banks and plants and animals, but also brings a lot of trash.
One of the largest barriers to people successfully obtaining and keeping a home is the high cost of housing and low wages in the region. But, this can change.
One method is to create permanent housing for a select group of people: families, veterans, and those who are chronically homeless, especially due to health conditions. The County of Santa Clara created a Housing Task Force in May 2015 with an implementation plan that is underway. In Santa Clara County, a group under the leadership of Destination:Home has develped a project called the “Community Plan to End Homelessness“, with the idea to a) disrupt the systems by acting quickly; b) build the solution and scale it to meet demand; c) serve the person by giving them what they need. The 2015 mid-year report is available now.
Another is to create “temporary emergency bridge housing” to help give a roof over people’s heads and offering a one-stop place to receive services that will help people obtain jobs and housing. Examples of these types of housing offerings are throughout the USA, for example in Portland, OR, where the Right 2 Dream Too offers a temporary place for people to place their tent and have some facilities and 24-hour security.
Currently, Assembly Bill 2176 is working its way through the State legistlature that may the City of San Jose to provide this type of temporary housing, which could ultimately alleviate some of the stress on our creeks with people living along them. AB 2176 would provide tiny houses, compostable toilets, and a community center where service providers can come. This effort is a better solution than the proposals to provide Santa Clara Valley Water District land adjacent to creeks for free permanent campgrounds through the SCVWD Board Homeless Encampment Ad Hoc Committee.
As indicated, this bill is a temporary solution while the long term goal of permanent supportive housing is planned and built. Who knows what will come of the bill or the possible projects. The City may be the driver, but the community, including homeless people, have to want it.