August 18, 2022
San Jose is connecting homeless residents with resources days before sweeping them from a sprawling encampment near Columbus Park.
Dozens of homeless residents strolled down Spring Street Thursday afternoon for food and services, ranging from legal aid, youth and veterans services and health care. The city has partnered with Santa Clara County and groups such as the Humane Society Silicon Valley and the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley to bring a wide range of resources to the nearly 90 people living in the camp, up from a few hundred there. several months ago. The event featured around 20 booths and is part of the city’s plan to prepare homeless residents before the city clears the camp on September 1.
“For a lot of people, it’s hard to start deciding where to go,” San Jose Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand told San Jose Spotlight. “It’s important that we provide services to connect and work with people, so that we can have as successful a transition as possible.”
Paul Peterson, who has lived at the camp in a trailer for two years, brought his two-year-old dog to the fair for a microchip. He spoke to Santa Clara County Public Defenders for help with his criminal record and Goodwill of Silicon Valley about a job.
“This fair has been pretty positive,” he told San José Spotlight. “But the resources throughout this could be better. We have so many mental health issues here. We could use that.
He doesn’t yet have a plan for the September sweep. His vehicle was impounded a few weeks ago, so he can’t get the trailer to go.
“I don’t know where to go either, but I don’t want to lose it,” he said, referring to his trailer.
HomeFirst, a service and housing provider for the homeless, has been the leader in connecting the site’s homeless to housing and resources. So far, the nonprofit has helped 90 people get temporary housing and another 45 into permanent housing, city officials said. Vanessa Beretta, senior officer of the city’s homeless response team, said the job is far from done.
“We’re trying to reduce barriers that would prevent (people) from entering a dwelling,” she told San Jose Spotlight, adding that some of the biggest challenges include determining vehicle ownership and obtaining appropriate identity or social security cards. “We also continue to be committed to people trusting us and trusting the process.”
Morales-Ferrand said the city will use the plaza hotel and small reception sites as short-term solutions until more accommodations come online. It is not clear where people living in recreational vehicles could go, because safe parking program in a VTA parking lot is not ready until November.
Residents of the site said they were working with housing providers such as HomeFirst and Abode Services to find housing before the September deadline.
Juaackoyn “Juju” Fincher is finally leaving the streets this week, after living near Columbus Park for a decade. She will stay in a motel while New Directions Behavioral Health works to find her a more stable living situation. The organization partners with groups such as Downtown Streets Team to find housing for the chronically homeless.
“I’m anxious because it’s still too good to be true,” Fincher told San Jose Spotlight. “Once I’m there, I can really believe it.”
Fincher said she waited years for help. She worries that others still at the camp are not so lucky.
“I have so much anxiety for the people who are still here,” she said. “I don’t think the city is doing enough, and their plans always fail one way or another.”