Housing Plan Needs Options for Low-Income Youth

San Jose’s current draft Housing Element report for 2014-2023 emphasizes the development of urban villages in select neighborhoods. The city’s commitment to urbanizing our communities should be applauded, but the means to house San Jose’s  most vulnerable populations must not be overlooked.

The city has built into the housing work-plan a statement to explore opportunities to create homeless apartments with supportive services—a statement that needs to be followed with actions.

According to the city’s 2013 Homeless Census and Survey, there were more than 12,000 people in San Jose who identified as homeless. More than one-fourth of those homeless are youth under the age of 25.

With federal and state funding for low-income housing becoming scarcer every day, it is up to local cities to think outside the box and consider housing proposals of all shapes and sizes. Many creative solutions have been proposed in the draft element. Ideas such as increasing the supply of secondary units, facilitating the development of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) buildings, implementing a master-lease program to provide interim housing for the homeless in under-occupied hotels, and even the development of micro units. SROs and micro-units will not only help the homeless population gain housing but will also assist low-income young adults move to independent living in a high housing cost area.

Silicon Valley is home to several successful SRO developments (San Antonio Place in Mountain View and San Jose’s Pensione Esperanza and El Paseo Studios to name a few), however, not nearly enough of them for a region as populated as Santa Clara County.

Last year Bill Wilson Center had 206 youth who were formerly homeless or emancipated from foster care in its transitional housing programs. When these young people are ready to move out on their own and become self-sufficient, they need an affordable place to move to. There needs to be rental options available that are affordable for individuals and families trying to support themselves in entry-level jobs.

During the past few years, non-profit developers have been working tirelessly to locate and acquire property available for low-income housing. Several non-profit organizations have stepped forward to manage these properties and provide needed services on site.

As the City of San Jose prepares to submit its Housing Element to the State of California, the inclusion of affordable living space for individuals and families working to break the cycle of homelessness is vital.

San Jose is planning to prioritize the Housing Element’s work-plan for the next seven years and it’s important to provide hope for those in our community who work in our lower wage jobs.

Sparky Harlan, Executive Director/CEO at Bill Wilson Center, is a nationally recognized advocate for youth in foster care and in the juvenile justice system, as well as homeless and runaway youth.


  1. Sparky:

    I don’t believe you.

    We have a Democrat president, a Democrat governor, Democrat senators, a Democrat congressional delegation, Democrat constitutional officers in Sacramento, Democrat county supervisors, Democrat city council members, and Democrat everything else.

    Democrats CARE about homelessness.

    It is IMPOSSIBLE for there to be a homeless problem in San Jose.

    IM – POSSIBLE ! ! !

    I don’t believe you.

    • > Why wouldn’t someone making $200k per year want to preserve her job security by increasing potential “clients” by all means necessary?

      Well, $225,262 actually.

      But it’s so miserly to quibble over a lousy 25 grand for someone with a heart as big as Sparky’s and who’s just helping the children.

      After all, Mother Theresa probably got paid just as much for helping leper children in Calcutta.

      Wait. Let me check that. I’ll get back to you.

  2. Both the State and Federal governments offer financial incentives to San Jose encouraging us to make our city crappy. People like Sparky here, who get a big chunk of this money, in turn have a financial incentive to lobby our “leaders” and convince them that this crappiness is merely a misperception among the unenlightened. Fortunately for her and her bank account, our “leaders” are easily duped and the ongoing campaign to overpopulate San Jose continues.

  3. City Hall is currently faced with a debt 18 stories high thanks to decades of plans and solutions that were supposed to create an attractive and vibrant downtown, an international airport with all the trimmings, and a crown jewel of a city hall. The downtown schemes, numerous and priced in the hundreds of millions, were failures, returning maybe a buck in revenue for every $100 spent. The international airport, once a city cash cow for the city, is now a bloated carcass, attracting more debt than new passengers. And city hall, which was touted as a fiscally wise solution to a city that had outgrown its old quarters, is a high-priced bummer.

    As it stands right now, I would rather have rats invade my neighborhood than anyone from the government with a plan. Outside of the kind of diversity we all know and loathe, I can think of no bigger threat to the peace and quiet of my neighborhood, or the dollar value of my home.

    As for your homeless young people, why not set them up in some shiny new labor camps out in the farm country? Or is that a solution only for surplus Mexicans?

    • Is it just my imagination, or did things seem to work better back in the day when the local central planners called everything “smart”: “smart growth”, “smart meters”, “smart planning”, “smart taxes”, “smart graft”, “smart everything”.

      I think the reason things have gone off the rails is that the really smart people who pull all the strings have gotten lazy and stopped telling us how smart they are, and how smart we are for electing them.

    • A lttle extreme, to be sure. Years past, societies had debtors prisons and workhouses for the poor and homeless, and mental facilitiees such as the insane asylums of old. Dickens chronicles life for the poor during the Industrial Revolution, a period of rapid growth and riches. We are now in a Tech Revolution, and the plight of the poor is the same. The “solution” was Welfare and social programs. Have they worked? Are SROs the answer? I agree with you on one point, though: I can think of no greater threat to my quality of life, or the dollar value of my home.

  4. I need help looking for place too live bye oct 1 ,2014 I be homeless me and daughter and two old son I been very stress out I got a job .. im single mom I have cal works .. I been so sad I feel like I failed my son … I need help..

  5. Doing well, while doing good.

    President of the United States $400,000

    Sparky Harlan $225,262
    CEO/Ex Oficio DIrector,
    Bill WIlson Center

    Vice President of the United States $230,700
    Majority leader, U.S. Senate $193,400
    Speaker of the House of Representatives $223,500

    Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court $223,500
    Associate Justice $213,900 av.

    All federal judges, median $119,270

    State chief justices, median $152,500
    State associate justices, median $146,917

    Governor of New York $179,000
    Governor of Illinois $177,500
    Governor of Michigan $177,000
    Governor of New Jersey $175,000
    Governor of Virginia $175,000
    Governor of California $173,987

    Governor of Texas $150,000
    Governor of Colorado $90,000
    Governor of Oregon $93,000
    Governor of Maine $70,000

    Median U.S. Household Income, 2011 $50,054

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