Advocates call for action after SJ ranked top major US city in homeless youth per capita

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Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Call for action after SJ ranked #1 in US with most homeless youth
Advocates are calling for action after San Jose was ranked number one in the U.S. with the highest number of homeless young adults per capita.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The City of San Jose has landed the number one spot on a list no one wants to lead. According to United Way of the National Capital Area, San Jose ranks number one in 100 major cities across the U.S. with the highest number of homeless young adults per capita.

"It's embarrassing, we should be ashamed of ourselves," San Jose State University Sociology professor Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton said. He is the lead author of the Silicon Valley Pain Index, which focuses on wealth and income inequality. Myers-Lipton has also long been a faculty advisor for SJSU's Student Homeless Alliance (SHA). He weighs in on the recent study.

"For those younger kids that are experiencing homelessness, the impact on their education is incredibly detrimental," he described. "Because what you need to have success, if you're a K through 12 student is - you have to have stability in the family. And if you don't have housing, you don't have stability."

The study examined data from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It found, for every 100,000 people, nearly 85 residents between 18 and 24-years-old, and nearly 38 teens and children under 18-years-old are experiencing homelessness.

"As the numbers go up, there's so many people that fit in that category that you would never think has experienced homelessness," SJSU student and SHA member, Lana Gomez shared.

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ABC7 News has documented years of advocacy by Dr. Myers-Lipton and SJSU students like Gomez.

"I really call on the leaders, not only the in government and in the political world, but also in the nonprofit and in the corporate world," Dr. Myers-Lipton shared. "This is unacceptable to have 4,000 students at San Jose State who experienced homelessness every year, and all they're trying to do is get ahead through a college education."

"You're gonna walk around San Jose State and you're gonna see students everywhere. You're not going to be able to point out who's homeless and who's not, and those kinds of things," Gomez added. "So there's so many people who kind of slipped through the cracks."

She also works directly with homeless youth and families at the Bill Wilson Center in San Jose.

"We need to be thinking about long-term solutions. Building relationships, you know, that's something that people don't think about. The importance of community," Gomez said.

MORE: San Jose State University announces more than $3 million in funding to tackle homelessness

"It is all of our problem," she said. "You see somebody outside on the street in San Jose - that shows there's something wrong with our community. That shows there's something wrong with our system."

The growing issue is behind St. Sen. Dave Cortese's push for SB 333 - a reintroduction of SB 1341 (2022), to provide monthly payments of $1,000 to high school seniors in dire need. 15,000 of whom, Cortese says, are graduating into homelessness every year in California.

"This is, I think, the way to regenerate our population to take this generation of homeless and catch them right as they're leaving their last solid set of federal benefits when they're 17, 18 years old," Sen. Cortese said. "And interrupt the cycle of homelessness right there."

"That's great for high school students, but we need it for college students as well," Gomez said.

"Just that little bit of help can mean food on a table, can mean transportation to be able to get to that job. You know, it's not enough to cover rent by far. Not even half of it sometimes. But it can mean they're going to eat for the night. It can mean they can be in a safe space for a short amount of time."

MORE: Santa Clara County leaders aim to house 100 homeless youth in 100 days

She continued, "It could mean the difference between being going to class hungry and going to class full, and to be able to really concentrate on your work and your homework and your studies for the night."

Dr. Myers-Lipton suggested, "We could do better on just the minimum wage. We can figure out ways to subsidize rent for our folks, particularly these 18 to 24-year-old folks, we could do that."

Advocates say anything to shake up the norm, otherwise the city risks ranking number one in youth homeless for years to come.

"I think that's the last thing we want our city known for," Cortese told ABC7 News. "Or our county for that matter."

After San Jose, New York City and Los Angeles round out the top three.

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