San Jose mayor touts program that leads unhoused to work, training and housing

San Jose city officials touted the success of a relatively new program designed to move unhoused residents from sleeping outside to having a home and full-time employment.

Under the heat of midday sun, San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan leads the way clearing trash from the Guadeloupe River trail in the College Park section of the city. This progress highlights the people who are part of a program geared to help the unhoused reclaim their lives.

"We want to empower people. We want to invest in people. We want to create opportunities for those who are willing and able to work their way off the streets to something better," said Mahan.

The 1-year-old "SJ Bridge" program, also called "Strive," recruits unhoused residents to work 20 hours per week cleaning up the city. The $18.50 hourly salary is used for city-provided temporary housing. 

At the end of the 90-day program, participants can apply for full-time work with places such as Tesla, Goodwill, Santa Clara County, and San Jose’s airport. So far, 100 people have gone through the program with 46 now fully employed.


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"If anybody here wants to change their life, they got the opportunity through the Strive program," said Farron Fields, who moved from the program to a full-time job with Goodwill Industries. 

"It’s getting you away from people who are doing no good. Doing drugs. It’s getting you out of the woods. You know, the idle mind is the devil’s workshop."

San Jose has some 6,000 unhoused residents. The COVID pandemic exacerbated encampments that now spread throughout the city.

Residents living in RVs and other vehicles near TopGolf in Alviso fear a posted abatement sign for this week means they’ll soon be pushed out of this area.

"It puts me in a bad spot. With no job and nowhere to go. I have no idea what’s going on. Every day it changes," said Ronny Jones.

He said he’ll move his 12-foot 1971 trailer around the corner, and back if need be, to comply with the abatement.

"There’s no place I can go unless it is really far," said Jones.

Mahan said he’s asking for $3.5 million in his next fiscal budget, to expand the Bridge program, and possibly a path to stability for more of the city’s unhoused.


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"We’re seeing that it’s working. And so we want to see how much we can scale that," said Mahan.

The mayor said his budget request would double the size of the program – which he said is cost-effective.

According to Mahan, It costs roughly $30,000 for each participant, and $65,000 per person to fight the problems associated with unhoused encampments, not including providing jobs, training, and housing.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter, @JesseKTVU and Instagram, @jessegontv