[Note: This item comes from friend Mike Cheponis. DLH]
The Jungle: San Jose’s largest homeless encampment scheduled to close on Thursday
By Mark Emmons
Nov 29 2014
SAN JOSE — Over the years, there has been a predictable repetition in attempts to deal with the entrenched homeless encampment called “the Jungle.”
Inhabitants are told to leave. Workers clean up the site. The homeless return. Then, the frustrating cycle is repeated.
But next week, city officials say, will be different.
The encampment alongside Coyote Creek, where between 200 and 300 people live in a trash-strewn tent city, is scheduled to be closed — once and for all. The city is planning to post 72-hour notices at the site on Monday, and work crews under the direction of the city and the Santa Clara Valley Water District will begin permanently dismantling the makeshift shantytown on Thursday.
“We’re going to have to be flexible because of the weather,” said Ray Bramson, the city’s homeless response manager. “But in the last few weeks, the health conditions really have deteriorated down there, and they’re only going to get worse if there is heavy rain. It’s just not a safe site because people essentially are living right along the river bed.”
The eviction marks the culmination of a pilot project in which local government has teamed up with nonprofit agencies to house the homeless before the heavy equipment rolls onto the site, which is near the intersection of Story and Senter roads. Bramson said about 140 people have been placed in subsidized housing so far. Another 50 have housing vouchers and are looking for places to live.
The closure also has been timed to the opening of Santa Clara County’s cold-weather shelters, which creates an additional 275 temporary beds. But the stark reality is many homeless in the Jungle likely will be relocating to other outdoor locations.
“Everybody knows this is coming, so there are a lot more empty campsites down there,” said Jennifer Loving, executive director of Destination: Home, which is focused on ending chronic homelessness locally. “But there are still a lot of people. It’s going to be tough. It’s not going to be easy on anyone. I don’t know where people are going.”
Robert Aguirre, who has lived in the Jungle for nine months, contends there are just as many people in the encampment as when public officials launched the housing effort. He said the homeless living elsewhere relocated to the Jungle when they heard there were more services available there. But even if you have a voucher, he added, few landlords are accepting them in a tight rental market.
“People just want a place to live,” said Aguirre, 60. “Right now there’s a lot of chaos, stress, tension. People here have nowhere to go, and they know that they’re going to be displaced.”
Officials have been under mounting pressure from neighborhood and environmental groups to take decisive action with the Jungle.
Earlier this year, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife filed a complaint against the city, claiming it had failed to adequately clean up encampments along Coyote Creek. Bramson said the city reached an agreement with the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board that a December closure date of the Jungle would be acceptable.