City to Use ‘Jungle’ Cleanup as Model for Other Homeless Camps

Of the few-hundred-or-so people who lived in San Jose's largest homeless encampment, called "The Jungle," 166 have found stable housing, according to the city. Another 70 have housing subsidies but are still searching for a home with help from a case manager. Twenty-four found jobs.

In dismantling The Jungle last December, city officials leveraged public and private resources to find work and shelter for the people who lived in the Coyote Creek camp and vaccinations for their pets.

"[S]taff utilized the place-based model to bring as many resources as possible to the site," San Jose's Acting Director of Housing Jacky Morales-Ferrand wrote in a progress report on the effort. "While the project was originally funded to serve only 100 participants, the end result of this collective impact work will mean that well over 200 homeless residents will be placed into permanent housing with extended support."

The city plans to use that approach as a model for dealing with other encampments.

San Jose claims one of the largest unsheltered populations per capita in the nation. A 2013 count found that 4,770 homeless people live in San Jose—an 18 percent increase from two years earlier. Most of them lived along creeks and rivers, in cars or on the street. For years, the city worked with the Santa Clara Valley Water District to clean up the trash and human waste from the hundreds of homeless camps within city limits and tried to connect people with housing and supportive services.

Still, the number of camps continued to grow.

In 2013, the city allocated $2 million to house people who lived along the region's waterways. It earmarked another $2 million in each of the next two years to continue the program.

City officials in summer 2013 chose to focus on The Jungle because it was by far the region's largest homeless camp and the subject of international media attention. They identified 200 camp residents to help, though some estimates put the actual population of the camp much higher.

"The team selected this location because of its significant impact on the health and safety of the people who lived in the encampment and in nearby neighborhoods and the potential detriment to the environment," Morales-Ferrand wrote. "The site was also easily accessible to service providers, law enforcement, and encampment abatement crews, thus allowing the project to more readily provide its full complement of programming and services."

Some homeless advocates, however, have been sharply critical of the Jungle cleanup.

"People who were evicted from the Jungle have moved and been displaced over and over with no end in sight," said Sandy Perry, head of the Community Homeless Alliance Ministry. "Some moved to the Walmart parking lot, then Roberts Road, then south of Tully, then to Phelan at the railroad tracks, then to north of Tully, then to Monterey Highway, then to Almaden Road, and they are still moving."

Perry planned a rally for Monday afternoon after a woman evicted from The Jungle had her tent bulldozed after relocating to a site along Story Road. He said the situation will get worse this week because Santa Clara County's winter shelter program will discharge another 270 homeless people on the streets.

In the 18 months since the summer of 2013, San Jose tapped into more than 100 subsidies to find housing and support for Jungle residents. Still, finding permanent housing has been an uphill battle in a competitive rental market. Homeless clients, many with barriers such as pets and criminal histories, had to compete against people with much stronger tenant credentials.

Because not everyone found permanent housing, the city reserved 60 shelter beds for people displaced after the camp's dismantling.

Leading up to the camp's closure this past winter, the city also tried to address environmental concerns. Coyote Creek had become awash in human waste and rotting trash, which led state regulators to file complaints and issue fines against the city for failing to adequately clean up local waterways.

For a period of time, the city placed a few portable toilets in the camp. After they were removed over concerns about vandalism and other illegal activities, outreach workers handed out bags for human waste.

Meanwhile, police heightened enforcement in the camp, leading to 20 arrests. The actual cleanup took two weeks and removed 2,850 gallons of human waste, 1,200 needles, 315 shopping carts and 618 tons of trash. The clean-up alone cost nearly $490,000.

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To prevent people from settling back along the creek banks, the city erected 1,500 feet of steel fence and deployed off-duty police officers to patrol the area. So far, 18 people have been arrested because of those patrols.

Though there were some drawbacks—mainly a dearth of affordable housing—the city plans to replicate the approach at other homeless camps. Over the past year, outreach workers have identified nearly 300 other camps, some of them populated by more than 20 people.

Here's a link to the entire report.

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Workers clear out hundreds of tons of trash from the Coyote Creek encampment. (Photo via City of San Jose)

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to jenniferw@metronews.com or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

24 Comments

  1. “Of the few-hundred-or-so people who lived in San Jose’s largest homeless encampment, called “The Jungle,” 166 have found stable housing, according to the city. Another 70 have housing subsidies but are still searching for a home with help from a case manager.”

    Great! As soon as word gets out, 500 or more homeless folks will arrive in SJ to replace those 236.

    “The actual cleanup took two weeks and removed 2,850 gallons of human waste, 1,200 needles, 315 shopping carts and 618 tons of trash. The clean-up alone cost nearly $490,000.” Seriously?

    Let’s get the US Army Corps of Engineers involved. They have jurisdiction over navigable waterways, which they define as any waterway with even the minutest of water flow. They can have these squatters around our streams arrested and sent off to some minimum security federal prison, where they’ll all “get 3 hots and a cot”, tennis courts, and a 9 hole golf course.

    • > They can have these squatters around our streams arrested and sent off to some minimum security federal prison, where they’ll all “get 3 hots and a cot”, tennis courts, and a 9 hole golf course.

      And TV. Will there be TV? With premium channels? HBO?

      Most of the fringe channels on cable and satellite TV are mind numbing pablum.

      We need to provide a TV watching experience for the homeless that is humane, uplifting, optimistic, and helps them in their recovery.

    • The state can barely fit the number of people in its facilities as it is, now you want to add the homeless. Are you mentally deficient?

    • You must be the most ignorant SOB I ever ran across in case you don’t know and I am sure you probably don’t but a lot of those squatters are men who fought for this miserable country and this is how you feel huh?

  2. If you talk to any of the Police Officers that work in the area, or even the poor residents surrounding it… They’ll easily call BS on those numbers.

    The “Jungle Fallout” as it’s commonly referred to can be seen all along Story, Senter, Lucretia and in various parking/empty lots in the vicinity. The quoted several hundred number is more accurately those still homeless and infesting the area.

    Whether it’s terrible at record keeping or straight up lies from City Hall, the newspapers should at least have the decency to vet such obvious miscalculations. It takes little more than a drive through the area and the ability to keep a tally count on an index card. Shame.

    • I was out and about with our new Silicon Valley Guardian Angels(SVGA) Chapter on Saturday, and talked to many homeless who’s sentiment reflect what you just said.

      Noticeably absent was homeless children. So maybe that 166 number reflects families. There are still a ton of single men, women, and mentally ill on the streets. Next week we plan on doing more outreach with them, giving them socks and wipes for their feet. I’ll see if I can get some of the homeless interviewed and post it up here.

  3. More spin by this City. All they did really , was disperse them all around San Jose. look around they’re beginning to pop up where they weren’t before. This City is quickly becoming a running Joke

    • Yeah, there are some new shopping carts at Curtner and Old Almaden Rd. these days.

  4. And now they camp all around the area of and even in front of Sacred Heart services at Monterey/Alma, and along Almaden Expwy/Cherry, and literally next to City Hall all along S 6th St. Sadly the Parade of Floats have all been taken over by the homeless.

  5. And it is now long past time to revisit the current shopping cart ordinance, as it is completely ineffective. Relying on businesses to retrieve their carts has simply proven to be a failure. 315 carts removed from this one location alone is proof enough that this ordinance never worked.

    The City should fine those businesses whose carts had been removed by the City. And would you want to use one of these carts that were returned to those businesses by the City? Or put your child in that baby seat? This is a public health hazard for that reason alone.

  6. I’ve managed to prevent the homeless from establishing residence anywhere on my property. I’ve noticed that there are no homeless camps on my neighbors’ properties either. Nor are there clusters of tents, garbage, and shopping carts on the ebay campus or in the Burger King parking lot. How can that be? Maybe our government needs to carefully study the methods by which private landowners are able to perform the most basic functions of property management and try applying them to their own lands.
    It’s really not that complicated. The first step is accepting responsibility. I see ONE person sacking out on my front lawn I don’t pretend not to see him. I don’t hope that my neighbor will shoo him away. I don’t wait until a “community” develops. Our various government bodies- the City, Caltrans, SCVWD etc. spend most of their effort trying to avoid responsibility. We need to decide what land belongs to what government body and then hold that entity accountable. If SCVWD needs to hire a private security company to do daily/twice daily patrols along the entirety of our creeks then that’s what needs to happen. For all the money we pay him, Beau Goldie ought to be out there beating the bushes himself.

    • Property owners who seem to be blessed to have property but don’t use it should probably donate it and get a big tax break

  7. Yes, good job, San Jose, in cleaning out The Jungle! Now every on- and off-ramp on all freeways have been converted to campgrounds, every strip of land occupied by power towers — the other day I spotted a (resourceful) homeless person who has erected their tent between a power box an the wall surrounding a strip mall. This person is living and sleeping less than 2 feet from the sidewalk (Berryessa Road near the Safeway). I’ve noticed that the DOT is trimming trees and bushes next to sound walls to discourage the squatters. Where did you think they were going to go???

  8. Round-up the vagrants and ship them off to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Camp located in Nevada and or Arizona.

    David S. Wall

    • When your “solution” to homelessness is to play hot potato, passing the problem on to someone else, you really have no business being upset when it lands in your lap.

  9. As any expert will tell you, homelessness is a very complicated issue. Many of these people have mental as well as financial problems. I really think the “haves” in Silicon Valley need to make a better effort. San Jose has a 13.5% commercial vacancy rate….why aren’t the BIG Tech companies donating some of this land/vacant buildings for the homeless? If Utah can do this, surely Silicon Valley can.

  10. Suzanne wrote: “As any expert will tell you, homelessness is a very complicated issue. Many of these people have mental as well as financial problems.” Indeed. And those folks need to be separated out as a specific component of the multi-faceted problem of homelessness in California. Solution of the mentally ill homeless problem was effectively foreclosed by the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, signed into law by Governor Reagan in 1967. So, you can blame those four men in particular, along with those in the State Assembly and State Senate who voted for it, along with the ACLU and others who championed it, for at least half the intractable homeless people in California. There were all these high-flying ideals spouted out back then about how beneficial the LPS Act would be for the mentally ill. But in reality, it was a budget cutting move primarily designed to shift the fiscal impact of the mentally ill from the state to local government. The same has been done by AB109 to reduce prison overcrowding by sending a lot of felons to county jails, but that’s the subject of another rant from me. LPS was a seemingly good idea on paper, with horrible consequences. Building mini homes or using motel rooms or Section 8 housing for this group just won’t work…ever. But the government folks employed to keep dealing with this, along with the private sector folks who keep coming up with ideas that don’t work—parasites all, who make their living off the homelessness issue—will keep trying to convince us that they have a new one-size-fits-all solution that’s going to work. Think about it—if they solve the problem, they’re all outta work. So, do ya think their next best idea will work? DUH!

    • Well said. Responsibility for the mentally ill and addicted shifted from the State to “Community Mental Health” underfunded programs and churches, and residents are paying for the fallout.

  11. May The God of Israel bless and protect all of humanity with wisdom,good health,happiness,peace and good fortune in all of there endeavors and affairs. May we all unite together to end homelessness,they are human beings just like you and me don’t give them a handout give them a hand up. Song of the day “I AM A MAN JUST LIKE YOU ” BY Ras MICHAEL. ENJOY THE SONG. HAVE A GOOD LIFE EVERY ONE.

  12. Yeah, Jahdev. God willin’ an’ the crick don’t rise; Insha’Allah; Happy Easter.

  13. Oakland and Brokaw intersection. There is a base camp right on the railway track.