Councilman Peralez Undeterred by Critics of Permanent Housing Project by Saint James Park

When it comes to popular support for housing the homeless, there are two types of people: those who want it, and those who want it somewhere else. That was apparent at a community meeting I attended last week night at Trinity Cathedral, where plans were discussed to build a permanent supportive housing project on North Second Street and Julian Avenue in downtown San Jose.

“I just wonder if you had considered Hedding Street, between Spring and Coleman,” one woman suggested as an alternate location for the project. “Sure, it's near the airport landing area, but I'm sure it’s cheap. It would give room for your excellent program, make it even larger than it is.”

“The housing was demolished in that area because of the landing path,” replied downtown Councilman Raul Peralez, who is a firm supporter of the housing project. “That site wasn’t looked at because you can’t put housing there.”

The woman didn’t seem convinced. “Has there been any instance of changing the FAA rules?”

Peralez shook his head. “No.”

“Why not?” she asked.

The councilman couldn’t help a bewildered chuckle. “I couldn't give you that answer,” he said. “I don’t work with them.”

Other residents were more blunt in their criticisms of the project. An older gentleman complained: “I think you're not really helping them, not really instilling any pride, because there’s nothing for them to do.

“You say you don't want to encourage people to hang out in the park so they can get this good free housing,” he continued, “but doesn’t that give them an incentive to, you know, just be there?”

“There is no ‘free’ housing,” replied Megan Colvard, director of People Assisting The Homeless (PATH), the nonprofit group managing the project. “PATH teams are in the park five days a week addressing homelessness. The individuals that we have been able to link to county housing subsidies come from interactions and engagements in Saint James Park.”

The man responded, “If other people see what you’re doing, they’ll say, ‘well, I’ll just hang out at the park, too, so I can get this free housing.’”

Colvard responded with a hint of exasperation. “This project is geographically targeted to help us identify individuals early enough to begin working on housing them. We’re aware of every individual that’s in that park, and we’re working with them, I can assure you of that.”

Not everyone was resistant to the housing plan, however.

An older woman chimed in, “I’d just like to say that I think it’s a wonderful plan. Much better than all the halfway houses, where they get their drugs and turn around and sell them on the street.”

“History is prologue,” one man stated. “I used to help [homeless] people for 30 years. For a long time, we’ve tried to solve the problem of homelessness in Saint James Park. The project [PATH] built in San Diego reduced the number of homeless in the park significantly, and that’s why they built it close to the park. They have an incentive, and it’s much more effective.”

PATH has a storied history of building housing units like the current proposal. As their first entry into the Bay Area, hopes for the project are high—but so are expectations. Colvard seemed well aware of the gravity of the situation.

“We’re prioritizing those with highest acuity, that have been on the streets for many, many years,” she said. “They’re the individuals that we see and interact with probably every day. PATH is an agency that, in the last three years, has housed 6,000 people this way.”

She added, “We're working on ending homelessness, not just managing it.”

PATH has been operating in the park since October 2015, doing an incredible amount of reconnaissance to determine the precise extent to which permanent supportive housing can be achieved neat Saint James Park, while helping hundreds of needy people along the way.

In addition to containing 78 units of permanent and interim supportive housing, the proposed complex will provide spaces for a variety of outreach services for residents, including counseling and job training, as well as public spaces for residents to hold events. There are even plans for a rooftop vegetable garden. Many in the crowd Monday night approved of the supportive services integration, as well as the emphasis on communal living.

“I can't imagine anything better than going there and maybe volunteering and getting connected,” one woman said. “That’s how we understand people who are in different situations.”

PATH expects to have the complex completed by Spring 2018, and Councilman Peralez seems optimistic that everyone will get on board as time goes on.

“Certainly, it is a polarizing issue,” he told me after the meeting. “[But] it hasn’t been, ‘I just don't want it.’ The consensus has been more on location rather than anything else.”

He added, “I like the location it’s at, and I’m going to support and champion it. Everyone here that is living in downtown, whether you’re living in a house or you’re living on the street, you’re part of the community.”

Peralez has worked closely with PATH since they first arrived in San Jose, and he’s confident in their ability to reduce homelessness in the downtown core. “I'm not coming in blindly and saying, ‘hey, let’s just pick any old group,’” he said. “We're picking a group that has done this before. [PATH] has already had tremendous success in our downtown, so they’ve proven themselves before the project is even built.”

Despite his optimism, Peralez knows bringing this project to fruition will prove difficult. Several neighborhood stakeholders, like the Saint Claire Club and the Mazzetti Law Firm, have already expressed strong opposition to the project. “There was one major group meeting at Mazzetti Law Firm to discuss it,” he said. “There was a sentiment of, ‘you’re not looking out for the community.’ I told them that everyone here that is living in downtown, whether you’re living in a house or you’re living on the street, you’re part of the community.”

“After we get past the difference of opinion of ‘I want it, I don’t want it,’ it boiled down to concerns about certain aspects of it,” Peralez continued. “But that’s what these meetings are for. “How we make sure this project is safe, how we make sure that it provides for the residents that are there, how we make sure it’s a good neighbor.”

He doesn’t expect formal opposition to the project to relent.

“The wise path to take is to expect all opposition,” he said. “The individuals that I met with at Mazzetti Law Firm understood that we stand on different sides, and they stated that this is something they are going to fight that until the end.

“I don’t know if that’s going to mean a lawsuit or not, which is why we’re doing it as open as we legally can, and we’re engaging the community. We’re willing to have those battles should somebody want to speak out against it.”

Some conversations at the public meeting held Monday, Feb. 22, were condensed for brevity and clarity.—Editor

Randle Aubrey is a lifelong Bay Area resident and the proprietor of the political commentary blog SOAPBOX, as well as a co-host on Face For Radio, a weekly pop culture podcast. You can find SOAPBOX at www.getuponit.org, and Face For Radio at www.echoplexmedia.com.

33 Comments

  1. Before 1990, Cityteam Mission was right next to the park on 1st and Julian. (Even been to the hotspot Raul?) I’m not sure what motivated moving it, other than neighbors tired of it being the epicenter of street drug deals, and even heavier drug use but Cityteam was shuttered, the land bulldozed, and some nice Luxery condo’s were built on the site. Cityteam did move East of 880 near Commercial, but some homeless like the “action” of downtown, so they started to congregate heavily in the park, and at SJSU.

    So basically we’re going to do the same thing. Offer these folks a “carrot” to start congregating away, but not so far away where they feel like they’ve left the area completely.

    Not sure how this will work out, other than history repeats. It might have a good run for a decade, get shuttered again, then we’ll have to have another decade of homeless hanging in the park and SJSU.

  2. So we have a homeless problem from generation to generation dating back 30 years.
    Housing problem is only a symptom and applying a bandaid to symptom won’t cure.
    Root cause is our educational system is not preparing workforce for rapidly depleting resources
    like cheap energy, clean water and access to capital to fund projects.
    Cheap energy today is the result of capital depleted by debts that cannot be paid back.
    i.e. folks too broke to pay more than $4 for a gallon of gas without going into a recession.
    If homeless were trained for job ready skills and H1B visa reformed, the problem reduced.

  3. The park will always be a great place to visit and get that sense of one with earth. People are attracted to green, because it is a place to feed your soul. That’s what Parks do. I support giving the homeless somewhere to go at night to be safe and free of danger. A city park does not permit that, not is it legal, healthy nor appropriate to do so. Understanding that there are many homeless people who are simply waiting for a break such as housing, should be what the community supports regardless of who’s backyard.

    • Angie: Do you own a home? If so, do you support building places to support the homeless on the lot next to your home, which would reduce the value of your home dramatically? If so, good for you. If not, shut up. Do you live in an apartment building? If so, do you support filling the rest of that building with these homeless folks you love so dearly? If so, good for you. If not, shut up. It’s easy to talk the talk; but to walk the walk, not so much. If you truly walk the walk, I commend you.

  4. I thought members of a community were productive, and respectful. No matter how often he says it, Peralez will never convince me, and many others, that the homeless are our “neighbors”.

    • City gal, you don’t sound very nice. If being respectful is the test for being a member of a community. You’ve failed.

      • Jill, in criticizing City Gal, you skipped the issue of productivity. Non productive, disrespectful people are not part of my community. You can have them all. Are you up for it, Jill? It’s easy to talk the talk. Are you willing to walk the walk? If you are, please tell us all what you are doing to solve this problem. If not, scurry back into your ivory tower and say no more.

  5. foolish. Raul is a dope. Go clean up Grace Baptist Community Center… which is in dire need of a lawsuit because of its violation of Church and State laws. They can’t clean that up. How are they going to maintain this property? CLEAN UP THE STUFF YOU ALREADY CREATED BEFORE BUILDING MORE!!!!

  6. Thank you Raul for doing this. I feel every Council member in our city should be copying Raul’s actions. Time and time again the Mayor and other council member have voted for affordable housing projects in my neighborhood and just recently voted to approve the first homeless housing development in this county again in my neighborhood. While Raul and I disagreed on this last development at least he is sticking to his word about spreading this type of housing in other neighborhoods.

  7. New York City put up high income housing around Central Park. The bums get bigger hand outs and they now have apartments in the Bronx! Stop pandering to the least common denominator.
    .

  8. Here’s an idea to get some focused political thinking on our stock of future slums a k.a “housing for the homeless”.

    Adopt a policy that requires ALL “housing for the homeless” to be located within 250 feet of a location in California where a federal or state office holder or candidate has held a private fundraiser.

    What a wonderful solution! Housing for the homeless in Aptos, Menlo Park, Sea Cliff, Tiburon .. all the wonderful places where Obama, Hillary, Bernie, Jerry Brown, Barbara Boxer, etc. like to mingle with their kind and deplore the nativism, selfishness, and isolation of middle class voters and “bitter clingers”.

    • That’s a great idea. You didn’t mention Bernie on your list. Is it safe to extrapolate that perhaps you are voting for Bernie? He believes in Community Land Trusts, the only sane answer to greedy landlords and corporations taking over our all housing in the United States and kicking out people on a daily basis.

      • Oh, I see Bernie’s name now……I guess I missed it because He mingles with THE PEOPLE and I thought you would know that!

        • Bernie is a primitive tribalist shaman, no different than the tribalists of 10,000 years ago.

          Tribalists believe that the shaman talks to the spirit world and can explain complicated or scary things. Tribe members believe that the shaman will be fair, and everybody must follow the shaman. OR ELSE!

          Tribalists are foragers, who will take what they want from the forest, until another, stronger tribe runs them off.

          Tribalists have no concept of private property. Tribalists don’t have herds or pastures, or crops and fields. Everything is for the taking.

          > He believes in Community Land Trusts, the only sane answer to greedy landlords and corporations taking over our all housing in the United States and kicking out people on a daily basis.

          “Community Land Trust” is just a fancy, modern academic term for “tribal hunting land”.

          Tribalists lived a subsistence existence. They created no wealth. The accumulated no wealth.

          “Subsistence” is just a modern academic word for “poverty”.

          Nothing is more intoxicating to tribalists than to hear their shaman make mystical promises of “equal distribution or wealth”.

          But tribes don’t have wealth. The only thing they can distribute equally is poverty and scarcity.

          Bernie Sanders’ plan for “ending poverty” is simply to organize tribal war parties and make war on “rich tribes”. SIgning on with Bernie is signing up for endless tribal warfare.

  9. Lazy people are like water, they take the path of least resistance. Stop handing things out . Where is the incentive to work and sweat? Turning American into leeches.

    • Geez max….are you an employer? Have you created any jobs lately? Sounds like all the rich entitled folks in these comments need to start putting their heads together and create companies that create jobs so all these takers have somewhere to start working. So, what jobs have you created lately? Flipped a couple of houses? Hired some painters to paint over holes in the wall? Wow, super impressive. House flippers, landlords, wall street housing execs….now they are LAZY! I’d love to watch them dig a ditch.

  10. Of course Peralez is undeterred by critics. Like most elected officials, he cares little for what the majority of voters want. Raul’s photo is a study in insincerity. Showing your teeth is not the same as a real smile, Raul.

    • JohnMichael….are you saying that an elected official should honor the wishes of the majority of voters? I’d like to get you on record as agreeing to that statement.

      • Jill: if it relates to spending taxpayer money, definitely yes. It takes only a simple majority to elect our representatives at all levels of government. We elect them to REPRESENT US, not to do whatever the hell they like with respect to their pet cause(s) with OUR money. After all, the US Constitution starts out “We the people”, not “We the government.” As was stated often in the 60’s by folks the government called radicals: “all power to the people!” When the Constitution was written, all power was in the people. Now, all power is in government hands, and because of that, we are going down hill fast. At the federal level, our so-called representatives live like kings and queens, at our expense. At the very top, the Obamas have spent tens of millions of OUR dollars on the types of lavish vacations they never took when it was on their dime. Michelle in particular lives high on the hog now, like some ghetto dweller who just won a big Power Ball jackpot.

  11. Well hey, since we’re dealing with “county housing subsidies”, I’m all for it – ON A COUNTY LEVEL.

    Build ours next to St James park as long as Campbell builds one next to John D Morgan Park, Los Gatos builds it next to Vasona Park, Saratoga builds one next to Villa Montalvo Park, Cupertino follows with one next to Cupertino Memorial Park and Palo Alto builds a wonderful homeless housing facility near Johnson Park – in downtown Palo Alto.

    After all, it’s all about fairness, right?

  12. > Ever read Progress & Poverty by Henry George? Get a clue.

    Jill:

    There are 32 million books in the Library of Congress. I’m working my way down the list.

    If Henry George’s book is about socialism, I’ve probably put it toward the end.

    There’s no mystery about poverty and socialism. It’s been around as long as humanity.

    Governments know how to make people poor. They do it all the time.

    The mystery is how to make people wealthy.

    • So that’s a no. And have you read Thomas Paine’s “Agrarian Justice”? Surely you won’t accuse Thomas Paine of being a socialist will you? And by the way, Agrarian Justice is a “pamphlet” rather than a book so you should get through it pretty quickly.

      I’m just asking for you to become familiar with some of the most essential and interesting thinkers before your time. If you honor the constitution at all (which seems like your a die-hard fan) you would know these men and what they have said on these subjects. Expand your knowledge. I know the evils of socialism along with every other “system” of government. Every form of government ends up with shortcomings. That’s a given. To quote you above “Governments know how to make people poor”. On that you and I agree. And by the way, it’s not a mystery how to make people wealthy. That’s funny. The mystery is not how to make people wealthy, the mystery is why some people with wealth feel the need to oppress others without it.

      • > And by the way, it’s not a mystery how to make people wealthy.

        Well, if it’s not a mystery to you, tell Bernie and Hillary, save the homeless, and end the stupid “war on poverty”.

        > the mystery is why some people with wealth feel the need to oppress others without it.

        Pure tribalist narrative. “It’s not fair. Unfairness is ‘oppression'”.

        Some people eat their goats. Some people save their goats and make more goats.

        It’s unfair that some people should have more goats. Kill all goats.

        • And with that fine example of your clear headed thinking, I will let you have the last word.

      • Jill tells us: “And by the way, it’s not a mystery how to make people wealthy.” I haven’t solved the mystery. So, Jill, if there’s no mystery to it, tell us how wealthy you are and how you achieved that wealth.

  13. Seems like many people attend meetings just to complain even when it doesn’t affect them. NIMBYs have been a detriment to many worthwhile projects.

    • OK, great CORONAFL!! So, we can put you down to have a homeless housing project next door to your place, right? Be sure to email your address to the Mayor and City Council of your city of residence, as well as the SCC Board of Supervisors, so they can get started on that project right away. Good man CORONAFL!!!

  14. To Jill and Angie: I believe it was Winston Churchill who quipped: “If you are 25 and you are not a liberal, you have no heart. But if you are 45 and you are not a conservative, you have no brain.” Bless you both, you pair of Pollyannas. I earnestly hope it will not take each of you until you are 45 to get that brain.

  15. Thank you for your leadership Raul Peralez, and thank you for your support Aurelia Sanchez. I have never been able to understand the thinking of some people. They complain about homeless people living in the streets in their neighborhood and making a mess, but the when you have a proposal to house them so they will be off the streets and not making a mess, they don’t like it. Housing the homeless is not only humane, it is cost-effective and makes for a better neighborhood. Common sense.

  16. Unbelievable – the cold comments on the homeless receiving help getting on/back on their feet. Do you seriously believe that a homeless person is uneducated -lazy- just waiting on a handout. Picture this… Retiree from the City (20 yrs+) gets a job to 1) Extra income 2) Loves working – 3 yrs of 24/7 – 7 days a wk. – No O/T, Workmans Comp.,Compensation for being on call….is kicked out of his Motel ($1,000.00 mo. Rent) because he won’t move soda machines by himself (No equip. to move them.) Nineteen rooms have long term Tenants( 1 – 8 yrs.) All facing being kicked out if the Mgr. is in a bad mood. The Police say it’s a Civil Matter – the courts will decide. So after 3 yrs – we are out in the streets – living in our vehicles while we figure out how to pursue this legally. I cant believe just how many there are who have faced the same/similar situation. Getting kicked w/No notice.
    Why hang around the park or downtown area? Because you need to be close to the places that can help you. Hungry? Well they’ll give you a sandwich/bottle of water. From 11am to 12 noon. Don’t be late… cause it’s over at 12. Hot? Try to find a parking- free, with shade.
    Sure – there are those who don’t clean up or ruin it by disrespecting the area. But we all suffer behind it. Time to find another spot. Think your self esteem can remain positive after a week of living in your car- the stares – questions by the police – No shower – and the gas Guage is on E. Downhearted — you go with flow. ….
    Homelessness can happen to anyone. You’d prefer to Not see us. You state “it’s not that bad” – they just want a free hand out. Yet – we’ve helped pay for that second home your buying.
    Most of us are experienced, educated, hardworking people. Hoping/Praying for a roof/home. A home youu can’t get thrown out of – after paying your rent. For now ….my car puts a roof over my head and offers a sense of security and safety.
    I hope this information opens the chilled hearts of those who only have negative remarks and visions.
    It CAN happen to you. It could be happening to your Mom, Dad, or family member.