Regardless if you’re a San Jose native or simply relocated for work, you’ve probably realized the immense homelessness challenge San Jose is facing. So just how bad is it?
Studies show that from 2011 to 2016 the homeless death toll rose by 164 percent. On any given night, there are approximately 4,350 San Jose residents experiencing homelessness. These individuals simply have no other option but to sleep in parks, sidewalks and benches, or to form encampments.
What’s contributing to these numbers? In San Jose, a lack of available and affordable housing is at the top of the list. The cost of living in San Jose is 53 percent higher than the national average, and the average rental price for a single bedroom apartment is $2,444. Prices like these leave San Jose renters giving large percentages of their income towards rent and homeless individuals no chance of ever obtaining a roof over their head.
The City Council has put forth goals of building 10,000 affordable homes by the year 2022. This agenda for change calls for incremental funding. This is where Measure V steps in. On Nov. 6, San Jose voters will have the opportunity to vote in favor of an affordable housing bond, which could greatly impact the housing instability crisis. Measure V was placed on the ballot by Mayor Sam Liccardo and 10 City Council members as they recognized the severity of the housing and homelessness crisis.
A passing vote would allow the city to allocate $450 million in bonds to build thousands of affordable housing units. Not only will these housing funds be geared towards helping the homeless population, but it will also provide affordable housing for other vulnerable populations that are frequently overlooked.
This includes medium and low-income families, veterans, teachers, nurses, and more. A percentage of funds will be distributed to populations with a variety of income levels.
Opponents to the measure argue that Measure A was already passed and therefore an additional tax increase is not necessary. Measure A funds are certainly helpful but are not sufficient enough to fix the magnitude of the problem. Measure A funds are allocated amongst the county, whereas Measure V will be specific to the city of San Jose. Even with Measure A, the city still runs short of $548 million to meeting the city’s housing goals.
Most taxpayers also do not realize that by helping homeless people find adequate housing, they are actually saving money. It is common for homeless people to use 9-1-1 as a way to stay in hospital emergency rooms. Institutional stays are expensive, and studies show we are actually saving $19,282 per person in annual public services.
So really, the most expensive way to address homelessness is by doing nothing at all. Housing the homeless will also lead to declines in criminal and drug activity, allowing our neighborhoods to feel safer and more desirable.
Innovative thinking and political will must be combined in order to address and eliminate homelessness. We cannot pass up this chance to gain affordable housing in our city, and in less than two weeks, your vote can make a difference. A two-thirds vote is required to pass and although the bill has broad support, it is still in danger of falling through the cracks, leaving disadvantaged populations at risk. Without action, we can expect the crisis to grow and the barrier for vulnerable populations to widen.
Casandra Suarez is San Jose resident and volunteer for the Yes on V campaign. Click here to learn more about the measure. Opinions in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches and letters to [email protected].