Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Open Forum: Homelessness in San Jose

Okay, today we're going to do things a little bit differently. There is no real post, just an open topic for discussion on one of the worst problems San Jose faces (especially Downtown) as well as many other Silicon Valley cities... homelessness. There are at least 7,000 homeless people living in the San Jose metro right now. What should we do about it?

Should we follow the San Francisco route and put millions and millions of dollars into programs supporting the homeless, even going so far as to make it fully legal for people to sleep in public places like parks (proposed law), or will that just attract more homeless people? Should we go the New York route and do everything possible to get homeless out of the city, or is that immoral? They even went so far as to ban food donations to homeless shelters, which was also done in several Texas cities. Or perhaps is there some middle ground, such as taking good care of all homeless that were born in the San Jose area, but asking everyone else to leave.

There is no right or wrong answer, this is an open topic and I just want to hear your thoughts.

45 comments:

  1. I'm not very supportive of any program that doesn't directly try to address ending the homeless problem. My issue is with those that choose to remain homeless, and there are a lot of them. Money spent on them is mostly a black hole. They are a leech on society and I do not want to spend my time or money just so someone else doesn't have to work or play by society's rules.

    I'd love to see a program somewhere that offers a path to a residence and a job for homeless. Just feeding and offering a temporary bed is only going to make the problem worse.

    Hell, you guarantee me a free meal and a place to stay in this pricey metro region of ours and I'll quit my job too.

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    1. Its going to take the private sector to step in. If our President thinks that sending 1 Billion yes billion to ukraine to help . Why cant they take care of our own and solve the housing situation for the homeless. I say its time to make our voices heard . Its time. Its just time.

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    2. And not all homeless people chose to be homeless. The drugs and mental issues are huge
      but I think as a society we have just given up on them. People aren't born homeless, something happened in there lives and they weren't strong enough to get past it. Hurting people . sometimes they just have no where to turn................

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  2. I completely agree with anonymous. I just bought a lovely home in San Jose. It’s spacious, has a beautiful yard and goes to the right schools.

    However, what I failed to see when I was looking is that there are a few homeless people who like to hang out near my neighborhood (Berryessa area). It’s an eyesore, and makes me feel unsafe.

    I’ve called the police a few times to let the know there is a person loitering in this area. They ask me if the person is in danger. I’m glad the police care more about the homeless person than they do about the person who works and contributes to our economy!

    It’s frustrating but there isn’t much the police can do. They try and encourage the person to move along, but then the same person is back the next day!

    I don’t know if they’re on drugs, or drunk or why they’re homeless. Frankly I don’t care. Maybe that makes me a terrible person. I support whatever measure gets these smelly people and their shopping carts out of our city.

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    1. Yes, you are a terrible person.

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    2. Agreed. You are a terrible person.

      Remember who said this.....
      "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first".

      You most certainly, along with many other indifferent self serving types will be last if at all to enter heaven.

      Have a nice day gorging yourself.

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    3. It would be funny for you to lose everything and end up homeless yourself.

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    4. I can see why Anonymous won't identify themselves. They forgot that God helps those who help themselves, and most of these people are vagrants not homeless and not willing to work. They are thieves, they steal by diminishing the value of your property if not the property itself and steal the quality of life you have worked so hard to obtain.. I have been the victim of thefts by these sleazy people many times. I have had my business totally destroyed by them stealing my tools. They steal millions of our tax dollars by forcing pc politicians to divert OUR TAXES to support them. I admit there are a few who are merely on temporary hard times, and others that should be in mental institutions, but the majority are lazy bums.

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  3. I'm not a San Jose resident, but I visit downtown SJ a lot and am rooting for it to grow and become a more vibrant place. That said, I am ambivalent about the different ways of addressing the homeless people who congregate in certain places in downtown. On one hand, I think a harder line may be needed, something like a sit-lie ban that other cities have tried, that forces homeless people to stop loitering so much in public places. This, combined with periodic 'sweeps' to force homeless people to move along from one area to another, might help make it less of an issue downtown. But that might also push the problem into the neighborhoods around downtown, which is not great either.

    One thing that I do think will help is simply getting more people (non-homeless people) living, working and visiting downtown. That will 'dilute' the problem, in a way. Think about it: When you go to San Francisco, there are a lot of homeless people, too - more than in San Jose, I think - but most people aren't bothered by it because there are so many other people around that you generally still feel comfortable. But when you walk in certain parts of downtown SJ where the homeless congregate, like St. James Park or parts of the Guadalupe River Trail, there are so few other people around that you really notice the homeless problem and you feel less comfortable.

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  4. I live in North Willow Glen near the Los Gatos trail and it is really frustrating that the the homeless camp out there at the creek, invade our parks so our children cannot play in them and generally cause a nuance. I constantly call the police and the only time they came out was when the homeless encampment caused an explosion and lit the creek on fire. There seems to be nothing anyone can do about the problem and no elected official seems to really want to do anything about it. I call every single time that I see people out there, but nothing happens. It is pretty frustrating and I know we can't go around jailing people for vagrancy all the time, but I would like to see San Jose put as much effort into securing our communities as we do to get wicked fast wi fi for downtown. I love San Jose, but I am loosing some hope for it.

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    1. wow you are a selfish person .I bet you claim to be a christian.

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  5. I feel if they're just down on their luck, the city should do everything it can to help the homeless by providing permanent shelters with food and let them have their privacy. If they're drug addicts, they should be given treatments for their addictions, and if they refuse and take drugs, they must be hauled straight to jail. As for mentally ills and the crazies, the city and the state should give them treatments and or put them in mental hospitals. If the mentally ills refuse or don't want treatment, the city should either force treatments or send them a one way trip out of town. That should totally wipe the homeless and the crazies from the streets of downtown.

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  6. I am another one who lives downtown SJ and there are a troop of homeless living behind the retaining wall behind my building. I am afraid to go out to my car if it's parked back there late at night or early in the morning. They fight, I've found needles, condoms, etc. Caltrans has cleaned them out several times but they keep coming back (and it's been scary to see more and more coming back).

    I agree with the others that it's frustrating that the police don't seem to be able to do anything about it. There are programs for these people; I should know, I work for a local NPO that does help people. But these don't appear to be the types of people who want to get out of the situation they are in.

    And does anyone else notice how many more there are now than there used to be? It's so sad to see the growing gap between those who can barely hang on and those who are homeless.

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  7. So far the only suggestions seem to be "move them somewhere else" which is a lot of effort with absolutely no benefit. I know its frustrating enough that it causes people to have strong reactions, saying we should do "something" but without a state wide (if not country wide) effort, its an issue with no solution.

    Why weren't they allowed to set up camp in the area south of the Airport? At least then they weren't in anybody's way.

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  8. I use to work for a nonprofit that focused on helping the homeless find homes in Santa Clara County, in particular San Jose. The reason Downtown San Jose is such a hot spot is a combination of public transit, proximity to health care (like Santa Clara Medical Center) as well as mental and behavioral health care facilities.
    In my experience homeless people are not all criminals waiting in the shadows for an opportunity to hurt anyone. They are people. They are people with problems much, much greater than our own.

    I'm disappointed to read that people feel that there is no solution for the homeless problem. Solutions are out there however they require lots of time and money, as well as a good deal of patience, compassion and understanding. It is especially disheartening to read, "I do not want to spend my time or money just so someone else doesn't have to work or play by society's rules." Clearly this person doesn't understand how someone becomes homeless in the first place and lacks any empathy for those less fortunate.

    This video talks a little bit on how easily homelessness can happen: http://billmoyers.com/content/homeless-in-high-techs-shadow/

    What should/can we do about the homeless problem? First we need to change the way we think about the problem. YOU don't have a problem when there is a homeless person camping by the creek. THAT person has a problem. YOU have an opportunity. Volunteer your time at a shelter. Donate to groups that help homeless individuals find and keep jobs. (The Career Closet in San Jose accepts your gently used office clothes and helps women get business attire for higher paying office jobs.) Educate yourself on the difficulties that homeless people face. How do you apply for a job when you don’t have a home address or a phone number?

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    1. Ok, but that's a bit sanctimonious. I think we all understand that the Great Recession turned some really productive people's lives upside down. Those people aren't the problem. I think we get that there's only a fine line between them and us. The ones that most people on here are upset about are the ones who are openly hostile or even violent toward other people. I shouldn't have to give up my right to feel safe in my neighborhood because some people don't have a home. They do not have a right to piss or shit wherever they like. Nor are they free to get in my (or my kids') faces for money or food. Many homeless people in downtown SJ are purposefully belligerent. I'm plenty compassionate, but a threat to my or other others' safety is a non-starter.

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  9. I’m glad there is a mench among us who cares about the homeless.

    But I’ve seen that video and I think it’s a great story but not the reality for most homeless people.

    Maybe there are a few sad stories out there, and I feel bad for them. But there is a greater number of addicts and mentally unstable people out there. People who have been given a lot of chances, and never made smart decisions.

    The person ranting on the street corner is probably mentally unstable. The homeless lady with two shopping carts sleeping on the bus bench is probably drunk. The guys fighting are likely on drugs, and the panhandlers…I doubt they use that money for a square meal, or save it up for a place to live.

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    1. Being homeless due to job hours lost, divorce,etc. Will make a person depressed and can be the catalyst for addiction...once your out there its like you are cut off from the rest of the world

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  10. The greatness of America is in how it treats its weakest members: the elderly, the infirm, the handicapped, the underprivileged, the unborn. ~Bill Federer

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  11. Have rich people start paying taxes and be done with the homelessness problem.

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  12. "I do not want to spend my time or money just so someone else doesn't have to work or play by society's rules."


    I don't want to spend my time or money so that the US can blow up people in other countries.. how about we can spend your taxes on killing people, and my taxes on helping people. Deal?

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  13. I live in downtown SJ so I experience the homeless everyday. Most of them don't bother me or cause problems for me. But, I'm a guy so sometimes we have higher tolerance to these things. Yes, they are an eyesore and an embarrassment for our society but these are people, human beings just like us that need compassion. We don't know their stories on how they reached this place. Most of them had dreams that were shattered. We need to strike the right balance with the homeless. We need to have tough laws that don't accept them living in our parks and creeks and keep them moving along the sidewalks and away from places they can panhandle. But, on the flip side we need to have programs in place to get these people help and treat them with compassion. I don't know what that balance is but it would be great to see some of the companies here in the Valley that are sitting on multi billions dollars in cash to work together (yes work together) and maybe sponsor a homeless shelter together and make it a model for the country. Imagine if 10 wealthy corporations (no names needed, you know who they are) that could actually all work together to sponsor a 200 - 500 bed shelter. Imagine the good corporate citizen kudos they would receive and I'm sure the tax write offs.

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    1. Agree with Anonymous at 9:12am. I also live in downtown, and definitely feel some of the larger success stories in the valley can/should invest a bit more in it's community.

      That said, I do have a general question. While the issue of how to "solve" the homeless problem is a complex one, and there are no easy answers, this is not unique to SJ. If we look around some of the other comparable sized, warm weather cities, which ones have a good solution that we can model?

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  14. Is there a list of good non-profit, that has a focus on programs that help get homeless off the streets, in downtown SJ?

    Maybe we can start there. Publicize the programs, then we can all vote using our $, and pick and choose the one that matches your own ideals. Instead of endless bickering that will get us no where.

    More $ & publicity should be a good positive first step.

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    1. Here is a start:

      http://www.homeless.org.au/directory/us-california-san-joses.htm

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    2. The worst place to have a program for the homeless is...downtown. It'll aggravate the problem. The strategy is to direct them to the site of the program....OFF OF SITE.

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  15. I moved to San Jose a few years ago from a much larger city. I live downtown - ground zero.

    I find the homeless issue here to be infuriating. Yes, it's a complex problem, but is it so complex that we can't improve the situation at all? It's either tired organizations with ineffective services or police complaining about budget cuts. The few times I have called the cops, they make it abundantly clear that you are bothering them and that there will like be no response. This is the "Capital of Silicon Valley," right? We can't figure this out?

    No, homeless person, you can't get drunk and sleep it off in the middle of a busy sidewalk in broad daylight. My front door isn't your urinal. My neighborhood park isn't your campground - there have been people in St. James Park living in tents and cardboard boxes for months. The whole situation downtown is disgusting, unhealthy and unsafe. A lot of these creeps are just plain criminals.

    I'm all for intervention and rehab, but as a community, we should be embarrassed and demand better. And better doesn't mean a bunch of expensive feel-good programs that don't work. The city government where I pay taxes needs to get out in front of this.

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  16. The nonprofit Downtown Streets Team has a good program that is trying to help homeless folks get jobs.

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  17. I wish I could take my kids to St. James Park to play but I cannot help feeling like there are needles and God knows what littering that place. Shame.

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  18. There are homeless and then there are "homies".

    1) Install a 24x7 video surveillance system covering 5x5 blocks, including St. James park to make them uncomfortable in their transactional endeavors (crack,meth,weed,etc.)

    2) Hire dozens of security guards (SJPD @ 70% discount) and introduce a stop&frisk policy while mandating a possession of a valid ID/DL for all individuals entering the SJ downtown area by foot or public transit (Sorry ACLU but this is about our liberties, city/county/state/federal tax-paying law-abiding citizens.)

    3) Be amazed and wonder a month later wtf happened. Where did everyone go?

    Hint: Where they came from; and it ain't San Jose.

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  19. I honestly don't mind a small amount of homeless people. As long as the stay out of site of the general public and keep the area where they are staying clean, and maybe even clean surrounding areas. As far as supporting them (food, money, clothes, etc.), they need to support themselves. I don't mind food, shelters and donations, but just enough to maybe supplement them a little or exist as nice gestures every once in awhile.

    If I see a bunch in public areas making a mess and smelling piss all the time like in other big cities, that is when it really starts to bug me.

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    1. Try holding it for awhile, you have no home or work to go to in order to use the bathroom. The local gas station has you locked out and the local restaurant wants you to pay to eat there in order to use the toilet. Exactly where are you supposed to go to the bathroom in this situation? It's difficult for any of us to understand if we haven't walked a mile in the shoes of someone homeless. Its difficult for people who are homeless to find jobs. Many times they have no way of being contacted, they may smell bad due to the lack of access to frequent showers, they may not have the clothing to convince an employer that they are "presentable" on the job.

      I agree with you about the public health aspect of the mess that are created by homeless encampments, and would guess that many of those folks have mental illness that prevents them from taking care of themselves or their surroundings. If they are medicating themselves it's even worse. Unfortunately, California no longer has facilities for mentally ill as they used to, and many of these folks need medication in order to live somewhat normally. Unless this is provided it's difficult to solve homelessness for this particular portion of the homeless population, in my opinion.

      But for someone who makes minimum wage, or less, and who is one paycheck away from losing their housing, it doesn't take much to become homeless and I think it's arrogant for us to assume that they don't want to work, or are irresponsible in some way.

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  20. "I don't want to spend my time or money so that the US can blow up people in other countries.. how about we can spend your taxes on killing people, and my taxes on helping people. Deal?"

    Honestly, what does that have to do with anything? This discussion is about homeless, not wars. Not once did anyone in this topic write that they wanted their taxes to blow people up.

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  21. All of you are so stupid!!! Being homeless is not something by choice. Its just plain trying to survive!! And yes why are we spending money to kill others in other countries? We need to direct our help in education or re job training these individuals. I know 2 young men right now who would love a job. One tried to work under the table washing dishes to make some money. He's 34 yrs old, once had a job at KFC in SC. He just wants to contribute to society and have some pride in himself. This restaurant who hired him cheated him out of the money he worked for because he was homeless. So there you go!!! This young man tried to work and was cheated. He's now afraid to try again. I don't live in San Jose but this issue is not just in San Jose, Its every where. People who have made a mistake in life or were forced into this life should be treated this way. You see Christians associations running to the aide of storm victims and etc. Why don't they help these people as well as the community. I really don't think that you have any idea what its like to live that way. I do, I have a relative who has been doing it for 2 yrs now. I don't live close enough to help him. I send him money because I cant travel there. If you come into contact with someone unfortunate like this share the word of GOD with them. You have no idea how it can make a difference to them. Heck just giving them a kind word and smile can brighten their day like you would never know. Think about it.

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    1. You are a total FOOL

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  22. Ok I am one of those homeless people downtown.I am not mentally unfit, I am not a drug addict, and I do not drink alcohol.I do not panhandle.I do not start fights with people.I do not have a criminal record other than driving without insurance . I did serve in the military I do watch the police violate homeless peoples rights.I know that there are a lot of people who chose to be homeless and some who are homeless because of they are not economically viable. I have not asked for any type of help ..I.E ...GA ,foodstamps ,or medical.The shelters here are horrendous. don't believe me stay in one for a week yourself.I do have a job and work but no one will rent to me.that leaves me with the only option of camping in a text till I save up enough money to pay for a whole year in advance.And the biggest problem downtown has are the black guys who hang on the corner and sell crack and try and rob people.2nd and Santa Clara they are not homeless.

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  23. I have begun a page devoted to video documentation of the many brutal homeless camp clearings in California.

    California Homelessness Reporter
    http://www.california-homelessness-reporter.org/sample-page/homelessness-camp-evictions/

    Please let me know if you hear of any others!

    markmetzler@sbcglobal.net

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    1. If you think you are so noble, invite them all to live with you.

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  24. I am working on a page devoted to documenting all of the brutal
    homeless camp clearings that are taking place in California:

    California Homelessness Reporter
    http://www.california-homelessness-reporter.org/sample-page/homelessness-camp-evictions/

    Please let me know if you hear of any others!

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    1. Nothing brutal really.

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  25. People . Have you guys imagine a picture. Homeless out of san jose will go to another city. We need more park rangers to keep the parks and trails clean. That will cost $$$$$.
    On the other hand if you volunteer that migth help and no money issue with the city.

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  26. There was a homeless woman holding a sign stating she was hungry. I offered to buy her dinner and asked us to join us at the outside patio of Chipotle. She refused. So was she really hungry? Personally I have witness a group of homeless individuals being dropped off by a car in near Brokaw and First. The man driving was belting out instructions validating orders he gave earlier to each of them. They then went to their respective medians to panhandle. They have coordinated meetings at the McDonalds (there is a man with a laptop there that coordinates them). It seems this problem goes beyond just a nuisance and it seems to be becoming more like organized crime.

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  27. My son is a new student renting a room in a small home adjacent to SJSU. There is a small group of homeless folks who live about 100 feet away in front of a vacant building. Unfortunately, there are no trash cans, running water, or bathrooms for the group. Garbage is everywhere, and drunken arguing goes on through the night.
    My son is greeted every few days with a fresh deposit of human waste in his planter, and more recently, projectile feces on the exterior wall below his kitchen window.
    I agree that the funding of homeless programs is important, and that the gutting of such programs in the 1980's was a terrible mistake. But that is long term.
    My question is how or what can be done to remedy this particular toxic problem that may end up threatening my son's health?

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    1. There may be an immediate solution. A new service center to address issues with the homeless Downtown is coming online on September 30th (see yesterday's post: http://www.thesanjoseblog.com/2015/09/september-2015-downtown-dimension.html)

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