SAN JOSE, Calif. - San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan wants a reallocation of Measure E tax dollars. That money would be used to build emergency interim housing (EIH) for those living on city streets and in area creek beds.
The city worked jointly with Valley Water to move 200 unhoused residents living on a four-mile stretch of the Coyote Creek.
"First thing in the morning, they were gonna be here. And here they came," said J.J., a man who had been living in one of the encampments.
The action was taken for flood protection improvement.
"We have an immediate humanitarian crisis on our streets today. We have nearly five thousand people living in tents and vehicles across the city," said Mahan.
He said the status quo of helping the unhoused into housing is in need of improvement. At City Hall, Mahan and others touted a plan to change how money from Measure E, or transfer tax dollars, is allotted for construction of emergency interim housing.
"We believe that at the same time we are creating permanent housing, more immediate shelter solutions, even if temporary, have to be found," said Alex Stettinski, CEO of the San Jose Downtown Association.
The city currently has $1.6M of Measure E funds for fiscal 2023-24. Half is for permanent affordable housing. The mayor wants to increase the amount for construction of emergency housing from 15-35%.
"This budget proposal would enable the creation of safe parking sites. We have a desperate need for better addressing the RVs and the other lived-in vehicles on our streets," said Mahan.
The mayor had previously toured EIH sites in San Jose, and said this, coupled with services, is an effective, stepped approach to self-sufficiency. Program participant Jaime Navarro was homeless for nine years.
"It’s a good place. It’s a good thing, give it a shot. I feel all the way human again," he said. Added Dr. Trish Crouse, a University of New Haven political scientist. "Policy-wise, it’s not a bad approach to take for right now…doing nothing is not really an option."
Some South Bay homeless advocates said they have seen new ideas come and go over the decades, and nothing changes. They are skeptical increased funding for emergency interim housing will be the bridge to getting lives back on track.
"Because tiny homes don’t work. They’re maybe 50% effective. Long term permanent housing works with services. So what’s gonna happen advocates are predicting is he’s gonna put them in tiny homes to get them out of the camps. And then they’re not gonna fit into a lot of those programs and go right back into the camps," said South Bay homeless advocate Scott Wagers, of CHAM Deliverance Ministry.
The mayor countered nay-sayers need to put forth a plan that will get people off the streets during the five years it will take to get permanent housing built. He asks everyone to attend a city council meeting 2 p.m. Tuesday when the budget item will be debated.
Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter, @JesseKTVU and Instagram, @jessegontv