SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - San Jose City officials say they have a homeless crisis on their hands. In Downtown San Jose's Plaza de Cesar Chavez, sits colorful Adirondack chairs initially put there to attract tourists ahead of Super Bowl 50. The furniture has become a permanent fixture, along with the homeless.
"They're pretty much everywhere we've been so far," said Nikki Mcleod from Lansing, Michigan.
Mcleod and her co-worker Brandon Selberg are in town for a tech conference and staying in a hotel downtown San Jose and say the homeless population affected their first impression.
"There's people hiding under the overpasses, living in tents under bridges next to highways, living out of their cars with trash and other stuff, people sleeping on benches around the city," said Selberg.
"Having the homeless here does impact tourism a little bit, but compared to the last couple years it has cleaned up quite a bit," said Austin Rangel.
Rangel says Downtown San Jose business owners pay him and other "Safety Ambassadors" to keep the area cleaned up.
"Basically what I do on a daily day, wake-up the homeless, make sure they're not in front of businesses, make sure they're doing okay, try to check-up on them," said Rangel.
Ray Bramson, the Deputy Director of San Jose's Housing Department, says the city is "dealing with a crisis."
The 2017 Census shows San Jose's homeless population is at 4,350, up 7% from 2 years ago. Bramson says young homeless are on the rise, with 1400 homeless young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 and 300 unaccompanied homeless children under the age of 17.
The number of chronic homeless, veterans and families has declined. "We've got homelessness in the form of encampments along our creeks and in our downtown area," said Bramsom. "We definitely know that permanent supportive housing, which is our primary strategy for dealing for folks who have been on the streets for a long time, works."
When asked about homelessness and its effect on tourism, Bramson said getting people housed and off the streets makes San Jose a better place.