Hope Village was dismantled this past weekend and its 16 residents moved to motels while organizers tried to find a new location for the sanctioned homeless encampment.
Santa Clara County entered into a short-term lease for the encampment from the city of San Jose in September, but as the lease came to a close March 31, neither agency was able secure land to relocate the camp.
The city proposed a “Compassion Village” with tiny homes at Willow and Lelong streets in Willow Glen, but residents in the area shot down the idea in March, saying the encampment would be an eyesore and pose safety concerns for its homeless residents. Hope Village tenants were also concerned about the site’s proximity to state Highway 87.
“There are so much empty, underutilized properties that have been abandoned and vacant for years,” said James, a 59-year-old Hope Village resident who grew up in Pottsville, Penn.
He pointed to the vacant Santa Clara County traffic court building on Ruff Drive across the street from Hope Village, and asked for the city to include sanctioned encampments in a multi-pronged approach to transition people from the streets to permanent housing.
So far, city leaders have favored tiny homes over the encampments, but the storage-like structures are more expensive than a collection of tents and fencing.
The current location of Hope Village isn’t ideal, with planes roaring over the tents hundreds of times each day and creating high winds.
“Is it prime real estate? Hardly,” James said, but he’s grateful the pilot program was able to shelter him for six months through an especially chilly winter.
Despite the discordant handling of Hope Village, residents said they’re not actively worrying about being forced back onto the streets if Hope Village doesn’t find a new home. The county has given residents motel vouchers that are eligible for 30 days, but Hope Village founders are trying to find another site in as soon as a week.
“The worst thing they could do is put me back where I started,” resident Charles Nelson said.
“Which is in the creek, under the bridge, and deeper into the woods,” James added, describing homeless individuals as “resilient” and “scrappy.”
Hope Village moved four times in the first week and a half of its existence amid disputes between the city, the California Highway Patrol and the state Employment Development Department, which owned the encampment’s original site a block down from its current one.
“Even that isn’t as bad as being forced to stay on the move for six weeks in a row, like a sweep would do,” James said.
Janice Rombeck, spokeswoman for Supervisor Dan Cortese, said the county has not secured another site, but is working on eventually relocating Hope Village. For now, she said the motel vouchers will provide temporary housing.
The residents packed up and moved to the motels March 4 and 5.
“The closing of Hope Village is a result of the failure of local government to act,” Hope Village leadership said in a statement. “Future plans are unclear but we will continue to search for a way to re-open Hope Village and move forward with our plan to provide a safe secure, humane location for area homeless.”
Story originally published by Bay City News.