Op-Ed: Homeless Along Creeks Still Need Help after Holidays

The new year in in full swing, and with it, the cold and wet nights of winter continue. Nighttime temperatures have been in the low 30s and 40s. During the holiday season, South Bay residents helped many of the 6,000-plus homeless people in Santa Clara County with warm food at kitchens or winter coats.

However, not everything changes with a new year. Homeless people continue to encounter the loneliness of the post-holiday season and continue to have few options on places to stay, including seasonal warming centers and the armory.

Sadly, other locations include the parks, streets and our creeks. This brings up two issues. First, people living outdoors are at higher risk for illness or death (more than 120 reportedly died in the County in 2016) as they brave rain and cold temperatures. Second, living on the creeks means continued pollution into our waterways and habitat degradation, not to mention possible flash floods.

Contributing to the homeless problem along the creeks are well-intentioned people (many from churches) who go to parks near the creeks to distribute food and clothing. This activity is not beneficial since it exacerbates pollution while encouraging people to go to the parks for short-term benefits rather than homeless service centers for longer-term assistance that can lead to housing.

Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful has been caring for and teaching people about the homeless, as well as getting people out to enjoy Coyote Creek. One of our core activities is creek cleanups with community members to bring the creek back to its vibrant natural state. I’ve seen salmon return to the Guadalupe River and can envision more fish and wildlife returning to Coyote Creek with some concentrated care. With a concerted effort, we can restore the creek together.

Luckily, one solution voters passed in November is Measure A, the Affordable Housing Act for Santa Clara County. The plan will direct $950 million to create 5,000 affordable housing units available to veterans, seniors, disabled people, low- and moderate-income individuals and families.

Additionally, the Santa Clara Valley Water District board has taken steps to address homelessness along the watersheds. However, NIMBY-ism has started to unfurl its wings. Building permanent housing is a long-term process, so we need to create bridge-housing in the interim as put forth in AB 2176, which passed last September.

We advocate for structured temporary housing with on-site supportive services to help people—especially those living along the creeks and outdoors—to have a place to receive help and housing. My hope is that Measure A will ultimately reduce the number of people living on the creek, which would be a win-win for all.

If you’d like to help us in our mission, please register for a cleanup and attend an upcoming kayak outing or watershed tour. We would appreciate your support to make South Bay creeks healthy once again.

Deb Kramer is the founder and program manager for Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, a community organization that provides leadership to restore the creek through cleanups and plantings, recreational and cultural activities, and educational partnerships. The opinions in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. @valleywater or @scvwd get millions for creek clean up, but 95% of clean up is done by volunteers not scvwd.
    clean safe creeks is pure golden spigot BS i have pictures and videos of carved out houses, adobes, with floors, ovens etc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2FTTwhHQ1k https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfyH4gFtcyw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-U5GdZA_dk can supply 100s of video where no one does a thing.

    SANTA CLARA VALLEY WATER DISTRICT #valleywater or #scvwd

  2. Tom, is it true that Santa Clara Valley Water District gets millions for creek cleanup? I’ve never heard of them lifting a finger to do any cleanup. Do you have any proof for what you say? Can you somehow verify that SCVWD is collecting millions of dollars? If you can, I think that sort of thing should make the front page of our newspapers and our citizenry would then take action.

    • Greg here is CSC go to link as wont let me print it all http://valleywater.org/uploadedFiles/About/Finances/051512%20Item%205.1%20Clean%20Safe%20Creeks-Natural%20Flood%20Protection%20Special%20Tax%20Summary%20Rpt.pdf run by guess who wife of RMC fraud.
      A. Accept the FY 2016-17 Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Special Tax Summary
      Report; and
      Provisions of Resolution 12-62 (Providing for the continuation and levy of special tax to pay the cost
      Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Special Tax, which was approved by voters on November
      6, 2012. Rate limits as specified in the Safe, Clean Water ballot measure are indexed to the fiscal
      year 2015-16 rates plus the change in the Bay Area Consumer Price Index (CPI) or 3 percent,
      whichever is greater.
      Based on projected costs of the Safe, Clean Water Program activities and reports released by the
      Bureau of Labor Statistics indicating that the change in CPI from February 2015 to February 2016 is
      3 percent, staff recommends that the special tax rates for fiscal year 2016-17 be set at their
      maximum level which would also reflect a 3.00 percent increase. Although projections show that
      there will be a small funding surplus at program-end, staff believes the recommendation is fiscally
      responsible when taking into account the uncertainty of receiving state funding, and the uncertainty
      associated with the future costs of proposed major capital projects.
      Staff has recently enhanced its outreach program to better inform the senior population of the tax
      exemption program.

      Levy of the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Special Tax at the recommended level
      for fiscal year 2016-17 will generate an estimated total of $41.5 million in net revenue that will fund
      budgeted expenditures consistent with the Report. The District’s proposed Budget for fiscal year
      2016-17 reflects this projected revenue. If the special tax is not increased by 3.00 percent, then $1.25
      million less revenue would be generated or a total of $40.3 million in fiscal year 2016-17. If the Board
      does not approve special tax rates for FY 2016-17, the District would not receive the funding
      necessary to accomplish voter approved outcomes.
      Melanie Richardson, 408-630-2035 Just look @ coyote does that even look well?

  3. Greg – the SCVWD website has several budgetary documents. I only looked over the “Budget by Objectives” for 2016/2017, which breaks down the budgeted expenditures into a handful of sub-objectives — with even more specific tasks or goals listed under each sub-objective.

    The sub-objective 4.1.1 “Preserve creeks, bay, and ecosystems through environmental stewardship” includes 13 specific tasks/goals, three of which appear to related to your question:

    – “Respond to requests on litter and graffiti cleanup within 5 working days through 2028 (SCW, B6)” [Task OM 4.1.1.e]
    – “Perform 52 annual clean-ups for the duration of the Safe, Clean Water Program to reduce the amount of trash and pollutants entering the streams (SCW B6, Illegal Encampments)” [Task OM 4.1.1.k]
    – “Conduct 60 clean-up events (4 per year) through 2028 (SCW B6, Graffiti and Trash)” (Task OM 4.1.1.l)

    This document only breaks down the budget for each sub-objective, so these three tasks together with the other ten tasks in its sub-objective are budgeted for $18,219,018. It’s not clear how much is budgeted for each of these three in particular, but the SCVWD has identified creek and waterway cleanup as its job.

    • “SCVWD has identified creek and waterway cleanup as it’s job”. Right. As long as they get extra grant money, volunteer labor, and no SCVWD employee actually has to break a sweat.
      SCVWD goes through the motions of pretending as though they’re interested in this county’s creeks and waterways. The only thing they’re really interested in is their air conditioned offices, their salaries, their sick days, and their pensions.
      And what about flood control? Will me and my neighbor’s EVER, no matter how many millions of dollars SCVWD pays contractors to rework the Guadalupe riverbed, be relieved of the obligation to purchase flood insurance? Shouldn’t SCVWD by now be able to state that after decades of their professional hydrologic expertise it is now safe to live near Guadalupe Creek? After 25 years here I’ve kind of gotten the impression that SCVWD doesn’t give a s**t.

      • so very true, or getting there 250k plus pensions for getting fired, Jesus who made out well went on to another calpers job.

  4. Levy of the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Special Tax at the recommended level
    for fiscal year 2016-17 will generate an estimated total of $41.5 million in net revenue that will fund
    budgeted expenditures consistent with the Report. The District’s proposed Budget for fiscal year
    this is from csc from link supplied, this is yours and my tax, if you own a home scvwd has what 6/7 line entries.

  5. I’m still waiting for the cleanup of Penatenca creek promised some 30 years ago. Not the elevated walkway that’s appearing these days.

  6. Poor poor Deb Kramer. You are so good. So innocent. But you have no idea what you’re up against.
    Several years ago there was another guy- his name escapes me now- who believed that he could overcome the lethargy, the bureaucracy, the indifference, and the incompetence of SCVWD and actually get the creeks cleaned up. Mrs. Galt and I helped out on a couple of his volunteer events. But I could see then, and he himself finally came to realize that our puny citizen activism was no match against SCVWD’s ponderous and overwhelming obstructionism.
    There have been many community efforts to try to do the job that we taxpayers pay SCVWD to do. SCVWD patiently tolerates these intrusion on it’s domain. It’s got the resources to wait them out knowing that eventually they’ll become discouraged and quit bothering them allowing them to keep doing whatever it is they do over in their palace on Almaden Expressway. Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful will merely be another in a long string of groups of well meaning citizens who finally figure out they’re no match for this local chapter of Big KoolAid. But Deb, for now your innocence is charming. Don’t let my cynicism worry you. You go girl!

  7. so true you go 2 meetings to have them shoo you away after 3 min, they vote their way every time, they even screw over their own workers, upper managers and staff are as sick as the politicians that run this country. there used 2be and old engineer who came in the give ideas, he went away as you say they dont care. we are taxed to death by scvwd but the only good work is done in the rich areas, and water district wastes most money on new trucks every year, staff, they rent equipment, when they have their own,
    There is very sick people running the water district, waste, fraud, shady deals run amok. Mr. Galt sums it up
    “finally came to realize that our puny citizen activism was no match against SCVWD’s ponderous and overwhelming obstructionism.” I still have friends who work there, nothing has changed in 20-40yrs, talk is cheap, even the union, just like big newspapers working for cia, union is embedded in upper management. A friend of mine had his stuff thrown away by manager george kamenjati, http://www.kamenjati.com/ who dispenced medical information, told everyone about this persons medical and private life, ethics, board, OMsteele(cao) did nothing. they agreed to reimburse him 1300$, but only if he would shut up! Of course he would never sign that! sounds just like most agencies..
    This person brought up the waste in the boardroom and how GK had all work stopped so things would break, all documented, but nothing. so its all the same. there is good there, but management keeps them away or fires them, dont follow the line, out the door. BTW what happened to the 300K new boardroom that is really going to cost 2-3 million, do you really need to watch the directors in hd 400k?

    • Tom T wrote:

      “…you go 2 meetings to have them shoo you away after 3 min, they vote their way every time…”

      Tom, it doesn’t work the way you seem to think. Votes are lined up well before meetings. Sure, you get to speak, but no speech ever changed a vote. You get a couple minutes to vent, that’s all.

      If you want to be effective, two meetings are not enough. One way to do it: put in several hundred hours helping someone get elected. Donate money. Walk precincts, talking to potential voters. Distribute your candidate’s flyers. Man the phone banks, etc.

      Then, if you’re lucky and your guy gets elected, he/she will *probably* listen to you. Maybe you can even change their vote. But attending a couple meetings and making a speech or two won’t make a bit of difference. Their votes are already in the bag at that point.

      Like everything in life, achieving an objective is commensurate with its importance to others. Obviously, when groups of a few hundred are involved (or even small groups with influence) and they don’t agree with your vision, you’re going to have to make a long term campaign of it.

      And if you’re successful, be prepared to accept the crumbs that fall from their table. They’ll throw you a bone (called a “compromise”). After that, you’ll have to work your way up. Only you can decide if it’s worth the effort.

      Only those who make their mission a years’ long commitment will get anything out of it. “Pick your battles” is good advice. Because you can’t win ’em all; you usually can’t even win one battle, unless you’re willing to forego just about every other aspect of your life.

      • Smokey,
        You forgot the one entrenched lifetime bureaucrat that say “NO” and doesn’t want to lift a finger to help anyone but himself to arrive at the retirement table without breaking a sweat.

        Just watch the crying in DC as the unemployment rate goes up!

  8. Looks to me as if the Santa Clara Valley Water District is little more than a bunch of thieving crooks.

    Deb Kramer, can you more fully expose how we’re getting ripped off to the tune of millions of dollars? Seems that SCVWD needs to exposed for their levying of taxes on tasks that aren’t being performed.

  9. Ask about missing equipment, wrecked cranes(taxpayer cost 250k) computers, you fill out your own time card, buying hearing aids for a director, food at events, when there should not be(taxpayers pay) renting when most likely they have it, like for events they have a storeroom full of gear over 100k, it has not been touched for years, or surplussed. Just the csc levy is 42 million, you think that gets spent on creeks? look at the creeks they get volunteers to clean out a section ea yr, you will see a supervisor making OT on that weekend, the district gives out the rakes, gloves, bags, kicks in some donuts, and a section or reach gets cleaned or what is not hazard, or to heavy is left. just look at the videos above, that downtown William st park area, which gets volunteer help, but if homeless are there, they the city, all steer clear.
    and they have like 6 more on your house taxes, they are in tight with Sacramento, they all slap each others back. there used to be ppl coming in all the time trying to find out info, or district taking there land house, and same old story go away, they pass almost everything, i think if the reporter dug she would see the most 95% of measures pass. google scvwd golden spigot there is maybe 100 videos of this black dung filled creek.

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