Stepping into San Jose’s first tiny community for the homeless is like stepping into a miniature neighborhood.
After you walk past the 10-foot gate that surrounds the property, there are 40 tiny houses – 80 square foot rectangular buildings with just enough space for a single bed, desk, shelf, and air conditioning and heating system – in neat rows with gravel Paths lined with potted plants lead from one house to another.
Built on Valley Transportation Authority’s land rented by the city on Mabury Road near Coyote Creek, the bohemian community offers a blend of stability and compassion for those living in the area despite the chronic lack of affordable housing try to stay afloat.
And after more than three years and months of delays, state and local leaders from Mayor Sam Liccardo to MP Ash Kalra to Governor Gavin Newsom gathered on Thursday – officially known as the Bridge Housing Community – to promote it as an innovative approach to the Solving the state’s growing homelessness crisis. In San Jose alone, more than 6,000 residents sleep in cars, shelters, or on the streets every night.
“We hope that this will be the model for everyone who can see that we can do this work in a community and that housing our homeless neighbors can be of great benefit to the surrounding community,” Liccardo said during the press conference.
With the opening ceremony on Thursday, San Jose joined dozens of cities across the country, including Denver, Seattle, and Oakland, and used the tiny residential model – or emergency sleeping cabins as San Jose calls them – as a way to combat homelessness.
Liccardo and other proponents say that with an effective construction cost of around $ 6,500 each instead of hundreds of thousands for permanent housing, the cabins are an effective and affordable option for getting more people off the streets and being on the way to stable housing. The total cost of the project, including site development and construction of the facility’s additional buildings, was more than $ 2 million.
The community is open to people who are part of the county’s rapid resettlement voucher program and are in the process of securing permanent shelter but who need shelter in the interim to avoid homelessness. The city hopes to be able to supply 120 residents on the VTA site in the first year in order to convert 40 residents into permanent apartments every four months.
Newsom called the state’s homeless crisis “a shame” and said he was grateful for the leadership of Liccardo and others to “take responsibility and responsibility to do more and do better”.
“The government’s vision to solve this problem is being realized at the local level – project by project, large and small,” Newsom said during the press conference.
SAN JOSE, CA – FEBRUARY 27: California Governor Gavin Newsom, right, and HomeFirst CEO Andrea Urton take a tour during an event to celebrate the opening of San Jose’s first Bridge Housing Community – a preliminary housing program who has favourited tiny homes for the homeless to individuals seeking permanent housing in San Jose, California on February 27, 2020 (Dai Sugano / Bay Area News Group)
Although the parish has been open to residents for more than a month and the event featured an official celebration on Thursday for all of the elected officials and parishioners they bought to make a reality, only eight of the 40 sleeping cabins are currently occupied.
City officials attribute this to the stringent criteria placed on eligible residents, including a thorough background check and the task of tracking people down.
“People get lost in the system,” said Jacky Morales-Ferrand, director of housing for San Jose, in a post-event interview. “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.”
Nearly 2,000 volunteers have spent their time helping Habitat for Humanity build the cabins that were transported to the site after negotiations with VTA were concluded.
In addition to the cabins, the community offers shared bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities, a kitchen area and communal areas with computers, internet access and job boards. The community is protected around the clock by a guard who sits in a patrol station near the entrance gate.
In addition to running the community, HomeFirst also provides residents with a wide range of services, healthcare support, personal financial advice, and career preparation training.
To encourage residents to work with the organization to get permanent housing, they are required to pay 10 percent of their income each – or $ 20 if they are not employed – for the first six months. After that, the rent increases every six months by 10 percent to a maximum of 30 percent.
SAN JOSE, CA – FEBRUARY 27: An interior view of one of the 40 tiny houses is photographed at an event celebrating the opening of San Jose’s first Mabury Bridge Housing Community – a preliminary housing program that offers tiny houses to homeless people if they are looking for permanent housing on February 27, 2020 in San Jose, California (Dai Sugano / Bay Area News Group)
“We are grateful that this website gives 40 people a respectful and dignified break from the camps while (residents) wait for permanent housing,” said Andrea Urton, CEO of HomeFirst community operator.
In addition to the VTA location, another community with 40 small houses is planned for a Caltrans location near Felipe Avenue, where Highways 680 and 101 intersect. The VTA location was originally scheduled to open in June and the Caltrans location in August, but was delayed by challenges in location and lease negotiations.
Although the VTA location finally opened, last month – six months after the location was scheduled to open – the city signed its lease with Caltrans for the second municipality. The opening is expected to take place this summer.