Local leaders identified a place to relocate San Jose’s Hope Village, an un-permitted outpost created by activists as a clean, safe alternative to the homeless camps dotting the South Bay’s riverbanks and roadsides. On Tuesday, the city of San Jose offered up land if Santa Clara County agreed to oversee the campsite for the next six months.
While the county prepares the city-owned parcel on Regent Street for campers to stay, privately-funded Hope Village will remain beside the SEIU union hall on Ruff Drive under the flight path of the Mineta San Jose International Airport.
Its six residents say they’re grateful to have a place to stay with sanitation and running water, but it’s a downgrade from the state-owned parking lot up the street where the California Highway Patrol evicted them on Monday morning.
Organizers of Hope Village—comprising members of Casa de Clara Catholic Worker and Sleeping Bags for the Homeless and a neighborhood group called San Jose Residents—established the campsite without government approval out of frustration with the filth and incessant sweeps endured by the 4,000-plus homeless people living outside in the South Bay. County voters passed a $950 million bond measure in 2016 for permanent housing, and the city is considering another one this fall to generate $450 million for new homes, but there’s a lack of short-term shelter in the meantime.
In a letter dated Tuesday, County Executive Jeff Smith and San Jose City Manager Dave Sykes agreed that the city would lease the land to the county for $1 for 180 days and that the county would have to provide full indemnification. The land lies under the airport’s flight path and remains undeveloped because of land-use restrictions.
County supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez have also directed the county to identify potential permanent sites, as has Councilman Don Rocha. Cortese said he’s heartened by the city’s responsiveness to Hope Village.
“The urgency and importance of the houselessness crisis in Santa Clara County demands that all government institutions respond quickly and collaboratively, and I am encouraged by the city’s immediate willingness to work with the county on Hope Village to obtain a fair and humane resolution before the residents are forced to relocate again,” he said in a statement to reporters Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the parking lot owned by the California Employment Development Department (EDD) where Hope Village sprang up unannounced on Sept. 8 lies empty, underscoring the absurdity of the situation to the camp’s residents and organizers.
Jacquie Heffner, a co-founder of San Jose Residents and Hope Village, posted a photo of the empty lot on Facebook with a question for the agency that demanded the eviction.
“We were forced to move, for what?” she asked. “EDD leave the lot empty because they were more concerned about property than people. I am so angry and sad right now.”