San Jose mayor says city has 'long way to go' to end homelessness crisis despite successes

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Friday, April 28, 2023
SJ mayor: City has 'long way to go' to end homelessness
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan sat down with ABC7 News to discuss how it's working to solve big issues like homelessness.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 News' work to Build a Better Bay Area means focusing on solutions, and San Jose is serving up examples when it comes to helping the homeless.

We have covered all of Mayor Matt Mahan's announcements addressing this crisis. But on Thursday we sat down one-on-one with the mayor to dive deeper into successes and what needs to improve in the months to come.

From day one, Mayor Mahan has wanted to get San Jose "back to basics" in working to solve the city's biggest issues, like the homelessness crisis.

Mahan's proud of what's been done in four months. The city has broken ground on a first-of-its-kind multi-story quick build community in South San Jose and opened one new tiny home community downtown.

But he recognizes there's still a long way to go.

"This is a crisis that is affecting the entire state, particularly the larger cities," Mahan said. "And, while I'm proud to lead a city that's starting to get traction in this area, we've just seen the first reduction in our unsheltered homeless population in about seven years, but it's a very modest reduction. We still have thousands of people living outside in San Jose."

RELATED: San Jose opens 6th quick-build emergency interim housing community since 2020

San Jose has opened The Guadalupe Community, its sixth emergency interim housing site for the city's unhoused since 2020.

The mayor wants to expand what he calls cost and clock effective solutions.

From unhoused employment programs like San Jose Bridge, to quick-build interim housing communities, that not only cost a fraction of affordable housing, but lead to faster results.

Mahan says they've helped 1,000 people in the past three years throughout the five interim-housing sites opened prior to 2023.

"We've seen over 70% of those individuals remain housed, sometimes years later, and we've seen a majority of those individuals graduate to permanent, stable housing," Mahan said.

Homeless advocates in the city argue many unhoused residents still don't fully trust this one-size-fits-all approach. They add that while the average success of residents finding permanent housing is 52%, some locations are only around 40% effective, according to Santa Clara County data.

MORE: SJ's new public dashboard details progress, problems addressing homelessness

ABC7 News met someone who struggled with acclimating to a community before turning things around and moving into the new Guadalupe location downtown, highlighting it's not a perfect fit for everyone.

Mayor Mahan says there have been failures, but he doesn't want the city to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

"We certainly need more affordable housing," Mahan said. "We know it's very expensive to build, it's very slow to build. So, while we're investing in affordable housing, and we've made steady progress on that front, we need to address the crisis on our streets today."

Those plans include finalizing a location for 200 tiny homes from the state government and opening a new safe parking lot in South San Jose next month.

Further down the road, Mahan says he's advocating for more state and county mental health resources. He says there are just far few beds for people with addiction or other mental health struggles in our area, and that's why they end up on the street.

He's also encouraging surrounding cities in the Bay Area to do their fair share.

While Mahan says the city won't wait for others to catch up, San Jose needs to continue to push forward for solutions to end this crisis.

"It's going to take a multi-pronged approach to really turn the corner in San Jose, but in the state of California," Mahan said.

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