Hundreds of tiny homes headed to San Jose

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is sending hundreds of brand-new tiny homes to the city of San Jose. 

The goal is to move people out of homeless encampments, and into those homes as temporary housing.

San Jose will receive 200 tiny homes as part of the program. Los Angeles will receive 500, San Diego, 150 and Sacramento, 350 homes.

The cities will decide where to place the new tiny home communities.

In a statement, Newsom said that if need be, tiny homes could be placed on surplus state land to "rapidly move people safely inside from encampments to housing."

The cities would own the homes and will have to figure out how to run them and provide things like restrooms, garbage pick-up and social services.

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan on Thursday said the city already runs four tiny home sites.

He said city leaders haven't yet identified where the new site would go, but they're looking at parts of the city that don't already have one, like North San Jose. 

He said the sites will come with rules.

"I think we need to look at 'no-encampment-zones' in the immediate vicinity of a site," Mahan said. "I think we need to assuage neighbors' fears these sites will become a magnet for more homelessness - which they will not."

Mahan added that in the other tiny home communities the city runs, "calls for service remains the same or even go down. That includes emergency calls and calls for blight."

The tiny home program is part of Newsom's plan to allocate $1 billion in state money to reduce homelessness.

"We have thousands of people living along our creeks and streets every night," Mahan said. "We have to move with greater urgency." 

Scott Wagers is a pastor with San Jose's CHAM Ministry, and a more than 30-year advocate for the homeless. 

He said for people living in homeless encampments, tiny homes are a more appealing alternative than a shelter.

"A shelter has many setbacks, mainly that people have to leave all their stuff behind if they go in," Wagers said.

He added that when most people are given the option to leave their tent for a tiny home, "they will definitely take that."

In tiny homes, people typically have private rooms with a heater and a door that locks.

Some have bathrooms and kitchenettes. Mahan said tiny homes are "much faster and cost-effective to build than long-term affordable housing."

The California National Guard will help set up these small home communities. The goal is to have them up and running — and people moving into them — by this fall.

When asked if San Jose residents will notice an improvement in the number of people living on the streets a year from now, the mayor promised: "They will. They absolutely will."

Newsom also announced that California will open up another $1 billion to local governments.

Last year, he delayed funding dissatisfied with plans that would reduce homelessness numbers by 2%.

He says newly revised proposals aim for a 15% reduction statewide by 2025.

"No money without plans, plans with numeric goals, real strategies, compelling relationships: city, county and regionally," said Newsom.