San Jose City Council on Tuesday will consider whether to resume removal of homeless camps across the city immediately, a year after COVID-19 halted many of those efforts.
Given the city’s lack of shelter or shelter for all of the displaced, officials have proposed setting up a temporary city-approved camp for the duration of the pandemic. It would be the first time in town.
“I have repeatedly urged the city to take CDC and county public health policies far too literally to refuse to move camps where those camps pose a public safety risk,” Mayor Sam wrote Liccardo in a memo to the city council. “After much hesitation, we have softened our strict adherence to the Public Health Guidelines to Clarify Public Rights of Way, but not enough to address many of our residents’ other fundamental public safety concerns. I urge you to do so immediately. “
Federal health guidelines recommend leaving camps where they are when housing is not available, as evacuating camps can spread residents in a city and potentially spread the virus.
Like many other cities in the Bay Area, at the beginning of the pandemic, San Jose agreed to allow camps for the most part – although dozens of moves continued by camp officials who presented a particular hazard or problem. Since then, many camps in the region have grown in size and visibility, and have sparked complaints from neighbors.
However, some activists worry about the dire consequences of San Jose dismantling more stocks.
“Sweeps will only cause more deaths as people lose the little warmth and stability they created,” wrote activist Shaunn Cartwright in a letter to the San Jose City Council, pointing out that nearly 200 people last year died on the streets of Santa Clara County. “They’re losing the solid structures they built, tarps, blankets, sleeping bags, and more survival gear.”
The Mayor of San Jose and others are calling on the city to create new rules governing where camps can and cannot be – as opposed to the pre-pandemic method of removing them arbitrarily just to let residents return and their camp rebuild.
Oakland passed a warehouse management policy in October that prioritizes the removal of warehouses near schools, homes, businesses, and other areas. However, politics has been slow to take hold. Santa Cruz is promoting a new rule that bans all city camping during the day and that homeless residents have to pack up their tents every morning.
In San Jose, Liccardo advocates banning camps from areas near schools and day care centers. Councilors David Cohen and Pam Foley say removing a bearing should be a “last resort”.
Policies restricting where people can camp are likely to be pushed back by some homeless rights activists who say they punish vulnerable people with nowhere to go. And COVID-19 continues to spread. Santa Clara County started vaccinating the camp’s residents last week, but it will likely take some time to get through to everyone.
During the 2018-2019 fiscal year, San Jose removed and evicted 403 warehouses. The city continued to remove some camps during the pandemic if they blocked a street, sidewalk or raised other concerns.
Since October 2020, the city has closed 97 active camps. This includes a camp along Felipe Avenue where the city has removed more than 45 tents and buildings. The camp generated large amounts of rubbish and bio-waste, and residents camped too close to traffic.
This week, the city is removing a large warehouse along the Coyote Creek Trail on East Williams Street to make way for a proposed trail construction project.
The city is known to have 220 camps across San Jose, ranging in size from one person to over 50.
As the San Jose leaders talk about camp closings on Tuesday, they will also discuss where these people will go. You can direct displaced residents to a city-sanctioned camp. San Francisco built sanctioned tent cities last year, and Oakland is considering creating “jointly governed” camps that residents and a nonprofit would run together.
“If we really intend to improve the living conditions of those currently living in camps and to reduce the environmental impact that has since been exacerbated by the pandemic,” San Jose City Councilor Raul Peralez wrote in a memo to the Mayor and the Mayor City Council In order for these guidelines to work, it must be established that those who are not safely housed can move safely. “