San Jose volunteers set up homeless camp without government approval

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A group of volunteers in San Jose set up a tent encampment without government approval, but they say this is an important step to bring immediate help to people who are homeless.

The encampment dubbed Hope Village was opened on Tuesday, but it’s uncertain how long it will stay Hope Village gives the homeless a place to shower, eat, and sleep, but CHP San Jose says because it is on state land, they have about 72 hours as a courtesy and then their fate is unknown.

A group of volunteers is leading a grassroots movement to help shelter more than 7,000 transients across Santa Clara County, starting with seven who will live in this encampment beside the San Jose airport.

The space is intended to provide a more stable lifestyle for people trying to get back on their feet.

“And so hearing several stories, people’s stories about what they go through and the issues of the sweeps and never having a place where they can be in the stability and the effects it has on their ability to get a job, get their health stabilized, and also their mental well being, we said something needed to be done,” Organizer Andrew Lenier said.

Exhausted by the slow turning wheels of government, volunteers chose a parking lot on Russ and McKinley streets belonging to the employment development department to set up.

But they didn’t get formal approval. So, their solution has an expiration date.

San Jose CHP, who is responsible for the land, can evict them after 72 hours.

But their captain says they’re committed to finding a legal space.

“That’s the last thing we want to do is coming in and throwing out people like that,” San Jose CHP Capt. Ceto Ortiz said. “Our purpose is really to provide safety for all individuals, and we’re allowing flexibility within reason to allow this process to transpire. Hopefully, we can do it within 72 hours. I have a lot of confidence in our officials that we can find a location I think that’s the best scenario. But we have to understand one thing, ultimately, it’s a state building. It is state property and sooner or later we have to restore the parking lot back.”

Hope Village has the backing of a few San Jose councilmembers that support the effort and want to pave the way for a legal encampment.

“It’s long overdue,” councilmember Tam Nguyen said. “It’s a step in the right direction. I admire these people for taking the step in the right direction. It may not be as successful as today, but I guarantee it will be successful someday. Somebody must take some action, and I appreciate their leadership and taking action like they are now.”

State legislators are also advocating help for the homeless. Sen. Jim Beall and Steven Bradford created Senate Bill 519 that among other things would allow cities to pay $1 per month to lease unused Caltrans property for emergency shelters.

That bill is now on the governor’s desk.

But again, those who don’t want to wait for the government to get a handle on the issue have turned to doing it themselves like we see here.

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