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San Jose offers tiny homes to homeless in exchange for cleaning Guadalupe River Park

Photo Credit: Canva
By Wesley Severson - Published on February 17, 2021.

The City of San Jose is trying something new to battle the homeless crisis, and this latest solution could solve two problems at once.

Guadalupe River Park has for years been a magnet for homeless encampments in San Jose. And now city leaders plan to give some of the city’s homeless population new ways to shelter, while the homeless themselves clean up the park, which has become overrun with trash, junk, and debris from the airport all the way to SAP center.

The plan calls for the city to move dozens of tiny homes into the overflow parking lot for the San Jose Police Department, which is right by the park.

There would be enough prefabricated, trailer-like units on the site to serve up to 100 homeless people, who would in turn be trained to clean up and restore the park to its natural beauty.

According to the Mercury News, this would be the city’s fourth tiny house site established during the pandemic, but the first location that would actually provide training to residents on how to clean up their environment.

Mayor Sam Liccardo issued a statement saying, in part: 

“A corps of stewards will revive the park by repairing, cleaning, and beautifying it. Peter and Susanna Pau have generously donated more than $3 million in prefabricated housing for the project, and we are actively fundraising from other partners.  I hope that our collective efforts will demonstrate to our community, and many others, how our unhoused neighbors — too often pointed at as ‘the problem’ — can be active participants in the ‘solution’." 

The three-mile park has been suffering over the past year as more and more people who have lost housing during the pandemic move into encampments.

“It’s something that I’ve never seen before, honestly, this is just on a scale that’s just so, so large,” Jason Su, executive director of the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy told the Mercury News.

Some believe that the long-term goal of the project is to push the homeless out of the park and into other South Bay cities. Richard Ford lives at the park and told KPIX “If we don't cooperate to their expectations then they'll come in and bulldoze us like they did last time. And then they'll uproot us, and then where are we going to go?"  

There are also substantial environmental concerns surrounding the growing encampment. During large rainstorms, the river is known to rapidly rise and flood out encampments, which then washes trash and other debris back into the river.

City officials say the proposal is still in the planning stages but they hope to have a final proposal up for consideration sometime next month. 

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