Op-Ed: Santa Clara County Should Build Homeless Intake Center, Shelter at Fairgrounds

County government is the sole local government entity responsible for social welfare programs. In contrast, cities, by their very charter, deliver only a narrow set of services, such as parks, police and public works.

Why then do cities often take the lead in dealing with homelessness when it is the primary responsibility of county government?

From my viewpoint as a former elected official, I believe the reason is because city government is “closest” to residents and tends to be the most responsive. When counties neglect their core mission to provide social welfare to homeless individuals, cities must then fill the gap. Unfortunately, this redirects resources away from providing city services (think potholes and libraries).

County government often gets distracted by issues beyond their core functions and is therefore partially to blame for the sheer number of homeless individuals in our community. This results in exposing our residents and neighborhoods to excessive litter, thievery, discarded syringes, and risky manic behavior by some (but certainly not all) of our community members who are homeless.

Adequate housing for every individual is a universal problem, but proposed solutions must begin at the local level. So, what should our county government do?

I believe the county should create an intake center and temporary tent dormitories on a portion of the fairgrounds property. This 150-acre parcel is 100 percent controlled by the county, so there is nothing standing in the way of implementing this proposal tomorrow.

Such an emergency temporary facility would provide basic shelter, showers, food, storage of belongings, and should permit animal companions. Social welfare and medical services would be provided onsite. Once set up, homeless individuals would be strongly encouraged to vacate neighborhoods and seek shelter at the county facility.

Individuals would be triaged based on their individual needs. If the person is a veteran, every possible federal program that is available to veterans will be provided. If the person is from out-of-state and wants to be reunited with loved ones, free transport back home should be encouraged. If the person suffers from severe mental illness, county medical staff would provide diagnosis onsite, and if necessary, a judge may determine whether the individual should be compelled to free treatment. This would undoubtedly be the most compassionate course of action to care for those with severe mental illness.

If the person is drug addicted, services will be provided onsite to treat their addiction.  If the person is homeless due to economic conditions, having a safe place to sleep would prepare them to get back on their feet again, and would allow greater focus on obtaining employment, job training, and securing a stable permanent residence.

Individuals utilizing this county facility would have their stay limited to six months. Counseling and wrap around services would be available to all and provided by existing county staff and non-profit partners.

An integral part of any solution designed to address the plight of the unhoused must include rigorous honesty on the part of legislators and advocates alike. Silicon Valley is one of the most expensive places to live in the world and may not be the best long-term housing option for everyone.

As Americans, we all enjoy the freedom to live anywhere, we can afford within the 50 states. It is not possible for everyone to live here, and it would be irresponsible to ignore the finite “carrying capacity” in the local housing equation.

As a society, we can continue to dance around the problem indefinitely, or we can actually make concrete progress in our lifetime.

The county has both the responsibility and the money. The community is waiting.

Pierluigi Oliverio is a former member of the San Jose City Council. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].

30 Comments

  1. Sorry to say but it appears to me that the fairgrounds is on “Structured Dismissal.” Developers are salivating for the day the county sells it so they can prop up condo’s. Even the old city offices are in the same boat.

    A better, far cheaper idea is to outsource it.
    https://www.saltoncityrealty.com/

    I first learned about the Salton Sea from John Waters “Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea” It’s perfect!

    * San Jose will be sending excess money to an economically depressed part of the state
    * Calls for service will be reduced, saving SJ taxpayers money
    * Did I mention land is CHEAP. Tons of lots with Water/Power/Sewer
    * Palm Springs is nearby, already a decent population of health professionals to assist those wanting to get clean.
    * Gets the problem OUT of San Jose.

    If we try to solve these problems in San Jose, with San Jose prices we won’t be able to help everyone. Outsource the construction of a treatment center where land/labor is cheap and you’ll be the new hero of San Jose. Hell, you might even be able to run for Sam’s spot and win once he terms out.

    • THE supervisors are more likely to make the fairgrounds a future second San Jose Google location than helping the homeless.

    • The least a homeless person expects is to have a place to shower and protect himself/herself from extreme cold/hot conditions, learn about local kitchens that provide food for free, churches and local colleges that give weekly or bimonthly food support, local agencies that give cash to those working for housing, etc…access to these services give individuals some dignity while being homeless.

  2. Trying to use logic & reasoning with bay area liberals… good luck with that one Pierluigi! You might as well suggest sending them to the moon.

  3. > An integral part of any solution designed to address the plight of the unhoused must include rigorous honesty on the part of legislators and advocates alike.

    BWAAHAAAHAAAAHAAAAA! ! ! !

    Oooops! Sorry, Starbucks patrons. I didn’t mean to spray all over your Grande Lattes.

  4. California is rich in unoccupied space, getting these people to vacate and move to it is another matter. But I like it!

  5. > As Americans, we all enjoy the freedom to live anywhere, we can afford within the 50 states. It is not possible for everyone to live here, and it would be irresponsible to ignore the finite “carrying capacity” in the local housing equation.

    ATTENTION BIG-HEARTED COMPASSIONATE HOMELESS ADVOCATES WHO WANT TO SIGNAL YOUR VIRTUE WITH OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY

    https://sjoutsidethebubble.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/teamvirtue03.png

    Why not use other people’s money to build “homeless” housing where it’s cheaper to buy housing:

    “The Salary Needed To Buy A Home In 50 U.S. Metro Areas”

    San Jose: $254.8K
    Seattle: $105.4K
    Portland: $85.2K
    Sacramento: $81K
    Las Vegas: $61.7K

    https://www.zerohedge.com/s3/files/inline-images/salary-needed-house-u-s-metro-areas_edit2.jpg?itok=7NPM9G4n

  6. Another dumb idea by someone who had eight years to work on the problem and didn’t. Typical Republican response. Lie, make up facts and pass the buck.

  7. The logistic of a plan can be discussed. However, the same way there are urgent mental health services in the county, there should be homeless urgent care. This will allow professionally assessing a person who might be living with mental illness while being homeless. For people New homeless individuals, this urgent care hopefully will help prevent mental health conditions related to being homeless. Being able to take showers and having other higiene support will allow them to live with a bit of dignity and prevent other illness. “

    • > will allow them to live with a bit of dignity and prevent other illness. “

      “Live with dignity” where, and for how long, and at whose expense?

      Sometimes, I feel that living among Democrats in San Jose is NOT “living with dignity”.

      In order to live with dignity, I feel I have to live in Hillsborough, or Newport Beach, or Monte Carlo.

      • Bubble, those that are ignorant of real life and people’s situations always speak stupidity. I have worked with this population. The majority of them are happy to start by having a part-time job and being able to pay even for a garage rental. Yes, some people rent their garages. Most of them want to eventually be able to rent a room or a place for themselves and family, any cheap place is better than the streets. Women and children have a harder time living under these conditions and are exposed to secondary traumas. Few have told me to be happy with their conditions; these are the ones not aware of their mental conditions. These few are also the most likely to remain and die as a Homeless. Dehumanizing these individuals and putting the blame on them provides a irrational explanation in order to avoid our responsibility as a community and society for treating and housing the homeless. Some people in the Bay Area are just one pay check away from homelessness status. THANK YOU GOOGLE! Your contribution to the Bay Area/San Jose are currently unmeasurable!

        • Its quite clear after reading some of these bleeding heart comments that you have NEVER set foot in the jungle or any of the other camps or even walked through tent lined sidewalks strewn with beer cans, stolen bicycles LIBERAL insanity

          • UNRELIABLE INFORMER: I am going to apply to you and Bubble what the best of all (Jesus) have taught me when dealing when people like you (Proverbs 9:7-9). For this,I am going to focus on Bubble. He shows some progress, but you are a lost cause. Have mercy of him dear lord Jesus. He has no compassion for the socially and economically oppressed!

          • As a former Christian missionary, I have seen the worst of the worst jungles and human miseries. At my teen years my boss of a 24/7 emplyement was Jesus Christ. He still is my main boss. I serve at a different level now. You really need those youth years to be moving from one place to another, sleeping a little and on the floor…have friends who have been subjected to all types of abuse for doing this mission. I am quite lucky to be healthy and in one piece. AMEN GLORY TO MY LORD! I would die a thousand times for his cause if I have and could!

  8. Problem is, same as the proposed Bridge Housing sight in District 2 (we were told the County was going to use it for “park” space — but really, they are reserving it for development. We know because they Mayors office called when that site was proposed and mentioned “economic development.”), the County probably wants to sell it to a tech company, and even in the interim, they have done nothing with a lot of land parcels they own. The leadership, or lack of, continues to be the biggest issue in addressing homelessness.

  9. If you can’t afford to live here then MOVE.

    I just solved the problem.

    Yes, I know maybe it won’t work for everybody but clearly it will work for some.

    • Working and middle class families used to afford to live here. After the Bay Area Google Empire, the least fortunate have been pushed out of the area or are now on the streets. Even some of Google employees have a hard time living in the area. Google’s power and practices supported by the advocacy of LICCARDO and county supervisors is a modern and “legal” segregation of the economically disadvantaged. They are being displaced of the homes and communities where their generational history have existed by means of high cost of living. Discrimination and segregation of the least fortunate can be disguised by the “job creation and economic advancement,” opprtunities! Who are the winners and lossers of the Google Bay Area occupation and empire? Google is just the biggest evil; there are other equally dangerous entities.

  10. > Discrimination and segregation of the least fortunate can be disguised by the “job creation and economic advancement,” opprtunities!

    “Job creation and economic advancement” is a CONSEQUENCE of planning for the future, deferring consumption, and producing food and resources.

    In other words, “job creation and economic advancement” is a CONSEQUENCE of CAPITALISM.

    Without capitalism, there is NO “job creation and economic advancement” and all human beings go back to a life of hunting and gathering which is how humans supported themselves 12,000 years ago.

    And some bad news, Fexxy: hunting and gathering is a VERY INEFFiCIENT way of supporting human population, and planet earth can only support about 25 million hunter gatherers. Which means, about seven billion people would starve to death if we did away with capitalism.

    And yes, capitalism DOES require “legal” segregation of the “economically disadvantaged”, meaning those who are unwilling or unable to function within a capitalism-based civilization.

    It maybe be “compassionate” to allow foragers to warm their chunks of goat meat on the lasers in a microchip factory, but it messes up microchip production which feeds FAR more people than a butchered goat.

    Personally, I’m in favor of whatever it takes to keep seven billion people from starving, and if the “homeless” and “economically disadvantaged” are inconvenienced by having to hunt goats in Wyoming rather than Sunnyvale, well put me down as being in favor of the “greater good for the greater number”.

  11. Bubble – You apparently have not lived in any other capitalist societies that do not practice Darwinian capitalism as we do. Capitalism is successfully combined with more compassion in many other western societies; those societies do practice the greater good for the greater number which the US does NOT. Here the greater good is funneled to the few at the upper end of society. And that is killing any cohesion we had as a society. Wake up!

    • > Capitalism is successfully combined with more compassion in many other western societies; . . . .

      Where?

      And why are you still living here?

      Sounds like you’re settling for second best. Those other “more compassionate” capitalist societies would just LOVE to have you! There are no borders anymore.

  12. “An integral part of any solution designed to address the plight of the unhoused must include rigorous honesty on the part of legislators…”

    Yeah, I remember PLO swiping his opponent’s campaign signs, too. I suspect that cost him more than a few votes. It certainly cost him mine.

  13. Susan Price sez that capitalism “is killing any cohesion we had as a society.”

    O really? Personally, I suspect that Open Borders™ might have more to do with it.

    A LOT more.

    As always, YMMV.

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