Bay Area/ San Jose/ Politics & Govt
Published on October 11, 2022
San Jose is paying $500 to homeless people willing to leave airport-adjacent encampmentPhoto: Wikimedia

The city of San Jose is trying a new tactic to help clear out a large homeless encampment near Mineta San Jose International Airport that is filled with old RVs, trailers, and cars. City Officials are now handing out $500 to anyone that is willing to relocate or have their vehicle towed away. The city started cleaning up the encampment at Columbus Park on October 11th. According to NBC Bay Area, “97 RVs, trailers, and vehicles were still at the site. Fifteen owners of those vehicles were ready to take the $500. About fifteen others also expressed interest.”

“I think it is a good deal because about half of the RVs and stuff on this lot don’t run — they were towed in, so it gives them an opportunity to get a couple of dollars while they find someplace else to go,” Robert Hernandez, who lives at the site, told San José Spotlight. Not everyone who lives at the encampment is on board. Several people aren’t taking the deal because their vehicle is the only place to take shelter. Others say their RVs are worth way more than $500 because they have showers, stoves, and refrigerators — and the city would likely tow them to junkyards.

The RV of George Villanueva has all of those amenities. “I’ve been looking online, and something like this costs at least $10,000. Why would I take a deal like that?” Villanueva told the Spotlight.

Many of the RV dwellers are waiting for a safe parking site to open near the Santa Teresa VTA Station, but the San Jose City Council won’t be taking up that issue until November, leaving RV dwellers with nowhere to go. Instead, the city is moving forward with the plan to fully clear out the area between Hedding Street and Coleman Avenue, along with encampments along the Guadalupe River, by November 18th. “I just don’t understand what the rush is. Why not wait until the VTA site is ready at the end of the year? Why not do what Mountain View did and give 3 to 4 miles of streets for safe parking?” Homeless advocate Gail Osmer told the Spotlight.

As reported by Hoodline in June of last year, the action to start clearing out the area was prompted by the FAA, which complained that the massive homeless encampment near the airport was a distraction to pilots and a safety hazard. Fires have occurred in and around the encampment several times in recent years.

The city of San Jose is trying to help people find new city-owned homeless housing. Some are moving into motels operated by the city, and others are moving into the city’s tiny home sites, but there could be a long wait. “I’m doing the tiny homes because, in the end, I’m hoping to get housing, just like everybody else. I just have to wait my turn. It could be next week, could be next year, but I’m not angry, I’m grateful,” Hernandez told the Spotlight.