Over three years in the making, a pilot community in San Jose, California consisting of 40 tiny homes providing temporary shelter to Californians emerging from homelessness.
The village, known as the Mabury Bridge Housing Project, is on vacant lot owned by the Valley Transit Authority and is one of two tiny house clusters planned for California’s third largest city. The second parish, located on Caltrans property, is slated to open to residents later this year.
Like the rest of California, San Jose, the county seat of affluent Santa Clara County and the de facto capital of Silicon Valley, is in the midst of a homelessness epidemic. By January 2019, the number of people sleeping in their cars, on the streets, and in shelters within the San Jose city limits had increased 42 percent to 6,172, compared with 2017 when the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s last homelessness census prescription was taken. The current number is likely higher.
It Takes a Village: The units in San Jose’s first tiny house community for residents leaving the homeless were built by volunteers from Habitat for Humanity. (Courtesy of the City of San Jose Housing Department)
Built by a small army of Habitat for Humanity volunteers at a cost of $ 6,500 each, the microhouses – or “emergency sleeping cabins” as San Jose officials have called them – are just 80 square feet and two are slightly larger for residents Disabilities. Each living room for single use is equipped with air conditioning / heating, a single bed, a desk and shelves. Laundry facilities, showers, and storage rooms are on site, as well as a communal kitchen and large common room where you can socialize and stretch out. A community garden and a resource center with computers and job boards are also available to residents. The grounds, which include on-site parking, staff offices, and 24/7 security, are fenced in to control pedestrian traffic both inside and outside the site, according to the pilot’s website.
HomeFirst, a San Jose-based nonprofit dedicated to bringing people out of homelessness, operates the community and provides residents with resources beyond temporary housing, including medical assistance and professional training.
The residents of the Mabury Bridge Housing Project are limited to 60 days as they continue the journey towards self-sufficiency with the ultimate goal of securing permanent housing. As the Mercury News explained, the “bohemian” community on Mabury Road in the shadow of the Bayshore Freeway across from the still-open Berryessa BART station northeast of downtown San Jose offers a blend of stability and compassion for those who try despite the fact to stay afloat due to the chronic lack of affordable housing in the region. “
The Mabury Bridge Housing Project offers numerous on-site resources and community facilities to help residents become fully self-sufficient. (Courtesy of the City of San Jose Housing Department)
The Mercury News said officials intend to house around 120 permanent home-seekers each year and convert 40 people to permanent homes every four months. San Jose Inside also noted that two residents have moved into permanent housing since the community opened.
However, at the grand opening ceremony in late February, attended by California Governor Gavin Newsom and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, only eight of the community’s 40 cabins were occupied for eligible residents due to restrictions, including background checks of the Santa Clara County’s Rapid Restructuring Voucher Program and actively seeking permanent housing. Although the community has only been open for a little over a month, there were early difficulties finding qualified people to populate the community.
“People get lost in the system,” Jacky Morales-Ferrand, housing director for the city of San Jose, told Mercury News. “And that’s actually one of the benefits of creating these intermediate locations because when we create housing options for people, we know we can connect them very quickly.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom was among several elected officials at the ward opening ceremony. (Courtesy of the City of San Jose Housing Department)
In total, the pilot program on Mabury Road cost around $ 2 million. This sum includes the 40 huts built by volunteers, site development and the development of the various support structures in the community.
“It’s a matter of scale. It’s a matter of capacity. It’s a matter of determination, and I just want you to know that we are determined to scale programs like this, “Newsom said at the opening of the community. “The state vision for solving this crisis is being realized on a local level, project by project.”