Pressure is on to move sanctioned homeless encampment to new location in San Jose

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Along Ruff Drive and in an airport approach area for Mineta San Jose International Airport, is Hope Village.

The encampment was originally built Sep. 8 by homeless advocates for roughly $10,000.

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A week after being built, the California Highway Patrol gave the initial six residents of Hope Village a deadline get off of state property.

The tents were then moved about 200 feet down Ruff Drive on SEIU property, with the understanding the location would be temporary.

Six months later, Hope Village tenants are now facing a March 30 deadline to relocate.

As it stands, the community has a fence, tents, common area, bathrooms, showers and people. Seventeen of whom say they're still struggling to get back into housing.

"You don't know where you are on that list," Colleen Guest told ABC7 News. "Am I number 4,875 or am I number four? Are you going to call me soon? Are we going to be out of this situation soon? I mean, this is painful."

Guest, her 92-year-old mother and her son became homeless in 2014. She explained the three lived out of a trailer and would go from location to location to live.

Her mother and son are now in separate facilities, while Guest lives in Hope Village.

Guest's list of questions and concerns is growing, as she and her neighbors now face the end-of-March deadline.

In the first of two meetings on Monday, many residents of the San Jose's Willow Glen neighborhood debated whether Hope Village encampment should move into their community.

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The initial thought was to use Santa Clara Valley Water District property at Willow and LeLong Streets to temporarily house the 17 homeless individuals.

Willow Glen resident, Joaquin Galaza spoke publicly about his opposition. However, he explained his concern isn't entirely toward Hope Village, rather the homeless population already there.

"It's a much greater problem than what Hope Village can solve," he said.

Galaza explained there has been three fence fires over 18-months, adding safety in the area is highly questionable.

"I won't let my wife jog down that trail. None of our neighbors will," he explained. "I'm a 6'4 former Marine and I don't want to go down there. It's just not safe."

Monday evening, the Water District voted against moving Hope Villagers to the Willow Glen location. Instead, the district said it would consider other sites.

At a second meeting Monday, Mayor Sam Liccardo joined Willow Glen neighbors and other city leaders at the Gardner Community Center along West Virginia Street.

Mayor Liccardo reminded visitors he has never advocated for sanctioned encampments. Instead, he emphasized his idea of building a better Bay Area relies on building more affordable housing.

"The idea of moving sanctioned encampments around from one site in the city to another is not the long-term solution," Liccardo explained.

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He explained the Federal Aviation Administration said the Ruff Drive location is not zoned for residential use.

"The federal government trumps any city authority," the Mayor told ABC7 News.

According to the 2017 Santa Clara County Homeless Census and Survey, more than 4,000 homeless people were living in San Jose. Of that group, 74-percent were unsheltered, with a portion living along urban streams.

On Wednesday, the San Jose Housing Department will host a community meeting regarding the move at the Elks Lodge on 444 W Alma Ave.

City Council is expected to discuss the topic on March 26th.

Hope Villagers say the camp is their only hope.

"The biggest fear in my future is the 30th," Colleen Guest said. "Because I'm not sure where we're going to go."

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