Growing concern over homeless encampments along San Jose bikeway

SAN JOSE, Calif (KGO) -- People who use the Highway 87 Bikeway to commute into Downtown San Jose tell ABC7 News they've had to maneuver around homeless encampments along the trail.

The Highway 87 Bikeway is used primarily for commute purposes.

Cyclists and those on foot point to one specific "problem stretch" in South San Jose- between Chynoweth Avenue and Branham Lane.

"It's infested with people constantly," resident, Paul Holowko said about the homeless people who have taken up residence along the route.

"I'm just scared to go," he said. When asked whether he's had any encounters with homeless people, he answered, "Oh yeah! You can go on this bike path a couple times and you'll get inundated by people constantly asking you for money."

Others point to trash and carts left behind. Jaclyn Smith, 10, said she's developed new habits to get through the occupied stretch. Habits which include not stopping.

"I just look straight ahead," she explained. "And just not pay attention."

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The City of San Jose's Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department confirm the trail is maintained by the city. However, beyond the bikeway, it's up to Caltrans. Ultimately, it would take some coordination to remove the camps.

"I also have a heart for them," resident Ruby Aguilar told ABC7 News. "I pity them because they are homeless, of course."

She expressed she doesn't feel concerned about the homeless encampments, and said she often walks the trail on foot.

District 10 Councilmember Johnny Khamis told ABC7 News, it's more than a homelessness issue. He said mental health and drug addiction are driving the concern.

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"More has to be done by the County and by the State on mental illness and drug addiction issues," he said. "The city can only pick them up and move them, quite frankly."

He said he's received calls from the public regarding the issue of homelessness along the path. The problem isn't new.

"I took it straight to City Hall," Khamis said about the bikeway. "I saw the encampments, I called them. They had it cleaned up. They're back again."

ABC7 News asked whether Khamis would feel safe riding his bike on the trail. "I have to admit, I would not," he said. "Shamefully."

He said finding a solution is a shared responsibility.

"I feel it's a failure of government on many levels. I'm not discounting our level either," Khamis explained. "But the fact of the matter is all we can do is pick them up. The County and the State need to do a lot more to help us with this issue."
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