by Carly Wipf
October 21, 2020
More than 200 San Jose residents seeking shelter this winter will be guaranteed meals and a place to rest following a decision by city leaders to keep emergency shelters up and running.
The San Jose City Council is also looking beyond temporary solutions and unanimously voted Oct. 20 to purchase a 72-unit hotel to use as supportive housing for homeless individuals.
“We all benefit from having a countywide system that addresses vulnerabilities that is able to ensure that there’s help no matter where you come from,” said Councilmember Maya Esparza.
The city’s emergency shelter locations at Park Side Hall, Bascom Community Center, South Hall and Camden Community Center helped 618 residents get meals and a place to stay from April 1 to June 30, according to Jacky Morales-Ferrand, director of the housing department.
But the grant partnership the city had with homeless resource provider HomeFirst expired June 30, leaving the shelters without the resources they needed to continue serving the community.
The council will renew its agreement with HomeFirst to secure more funding to operate the South Hall and Camden Community Center shelters. The city will also chip in additional CARES Act dollars — set to expire at the end of the year. This money will help support services provided to residents past the agreement’s June expiration date.
By December, more than $4 million will have been spent on the four emergency shelters. The shelters were first approved by the City Council in April after the COVID-19 outbreak in March.
The Park Side and Bascom shelters are now closed and residents were relocated to other shelters.
Thanks to the additional funding, Camden Community Center will remain open until people can be moved into the interim housing site at Evan’s Lane. The goal is to transition families to Evans Lane by Nov. 1.
City leaders are also working to keep South Hall open through spring. For the next two months, an estimated $1.2 million will go toward funding services at South Hall.
“It’s really just a question of if we’re able to get the funding to continue the program,” said Vice Mayor Chappie Jones. “If the funding is there, I’m very confident that we will continue this.”
Since March, the city has housed more than 1,200 people, according to Ragan Henninger from the housing department. Many of these individuals have been sheltered at San Jose’s Renascent Place supportive housing development.
“I think moving more than 1,200 people into permanent housing is extraordinary in a difficult time like this,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo.
In addition to providing temporary shelter beds, San Jose plans to buy the Sure Stay Best Western San Jose Airport hotel at 1488 North 1st St. to use as longer-term interim housing.
In September Gov. Gavin Newsom awarded the city $14.5 million to help house homeless residents through Project Homekey, a program to convert hotel rooms to supportive housing.
The cost of purchasing the hotel is $14.1 million and includes furnishings and other amenities. The city will foot $3.2 million of the bill while the state will contribute $10.8 million. The hotel is being purchased as is, meaning the seller won’t do any improvements to the property as part of the sale.
The city aims to complete its purchase of the hotel by the end of the month.
The hotel will be used for supportive housing for approximately 5 years. It could eventually be redeveloped as 200 low-income apartments, according to Deputy Housing Director Rachel VanderVeen.
“At the onset of COVID-19, we quickly recognized the enormous task of keeping the city’s 5,117 unsheltered residents safe from infection,” wrote Liccardo and Councilmember Raul Peralez in a memo. “Project Homekey funding comes at a critical time when we must establish long-term solutions to avoid pushing our homeless neighbors back out onto the streets when the pandemic subsides.”
As of Oct. 20, Santa Clara County has had 23,458 COVID-19 cases and 382 deaths. County data shows there are 135 new cases, 88 current hospitalizations and four new deaths.
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