Homeless housing project near San Jose's Japantown sparks debate

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A proposed affordable housing project is causing quite a stir among residents north of San Jose's Japantown neighborhood.

"The city is pretty much cramming these projects in our neighborhood when homelessness is a Bay Area problem," said Ludmila Parada of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association.

People Assisting the Homeless, or PATH for short, is in talks to buy a vacant supermarket site at 4th and Younger to build housing for the homeless. Officials say it could be four stories tall and include up to 100 units. Supportive services for residents would be available on-site.

Megan Colvard, PATH's regional director in San Jose, says the organization is engaging with the community years before it is even required to do so. She says their goal is to ensure that every development created by PATH is reflective of the community.

"We do create housing opportunities for people in need, some of those individuals might struggle with mental health challenges and substances," said Colvard.

"The reality is our homeless neighbors are living with these challenges everyday on our streets. They are our neighbors today, and they'll be our neighbors tomorrow."

Francis Song, owner of the popular Hunan Taste, across from the proposed housing site, says some of the homeless sleep in front of the entrance, at times blocking customers from entering his restaurant.

"Day after day, I have to kick them out, and sometimes, they pull a knife on me, they don't want to move," said Song, who has tried helping the homeless in the past by providing food and water.

Other homeless advocacy groups, such as Destination: Home, believes the project can be a win-win for the entire community.

"There's a great opportunity at the site itself to not only have housing, but to add a commercial retail component and have some neighborhood-serving amenities as well," said Ray Bramson, Destination: Home's chief impact officer.

The project is still years away from being built, but neighbors say they'll continue to voice their concerns.

"We've got a middle school literally a block away. We've got three different liquor stores there. It just doesn't seem the best usage," said San Jose resident Mark Reifkind.

PATH has yet to complete the purchase of the property.
Copyright © 2019 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.