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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Opinion: “Safe Parking” is the path to stability for the homeless.

Homelessness and related problems affect every area of ​​San Jose. Lack of affordable housing is an important cause of homelessness, but it is not the only factor that creates housing insecurity. Many of our neighbors live paycheck to paycheck, and when an emergency strikes, they lack reliable security systems to keep them warm, safe and permanent.

Residents without homes surround us – both hidden and in plain sight – and most of them want to live as discreetly as the rest of us. Our city recently showed that it can quickly provide a place where people with unsafe housing living in vehicles can legally and safely remain in transition.

When the city of San Jose learned that Apple was planning to evict homeless people from their property on Component Drive in North San Jose, approximately 50 people moved into temporary housing. Then the problem was how to accommodate the small number of homeless residents living in mobile homes or cars.

The choice was to either let them wander around San Jose to park where they found a spot, or provide a temporary spot where they could legally and safely park and get some basic services until they find more stable options. housing. City-owned land on Vista Montana in northern San Jose, slated for future development, has been identified as the only possible site to be converted to a transition site.

I was glad that we were able to provide a safe place for several of the homeless residents of the Apple site who lived in vehicles. Safe parking became a true home base where residents could stay without fear of being swept away while city employees worked with them to find durable solutions.

It was regrettable to witness the mistreatment of a small group of neighbors with residents of a safe parking lot. There were reports of neighbors following the homeless to and from the site while they performed routine tasks such as going to the store. Neighbors launched drones over the site and protested weekly against secure parking, without trying to strike up a substantive conversation.

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I understand the frustration of our residents with the consequences of unregulated homeless camps. They are tired of the garbage that spills onto the sidewalks and streets in the area. That’s why I support the provision of authorized spaces that offer secure parking: spaces that are fenced in and offer lighting, garbage collection and sanitation services, as well as 24/7 security on site. These places are simply incomparable with uncontrolled parking lots.

We cannot magically make homelessness disappear. Compassionate housing alternatives may be closer to our homes or businesses than we expect, but overly hostile reactions only make it difficult to find meaningful and lasting solutions.

Despite the hostile treatment, the people we served at Vista Montana were grateful for having a safe place to stay during their transition. Each of them got the opportunity to get additional housing, their cars were repaired, and at least one got a job and is now on the road to recovery. When I visited this place, the residents were grateful for the sympathy shown to them in the city.

While I regret that we were not able to harness the full potential of this place, we showed that San Jose can successfully provide a stable temporary space for the homeless. I intend to make more space for this and look forward to the support of a community that understands the need for compassionate solutions. Until we improve the quality of life of the homeless, we cannot improve the quality of life of our entire community.

David Cohen represents District 4 on the San Jose City Council.

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