Why thousands are opposing Santa Clara's proposed temporary housing for the homeless

Lauren Martinez Image
Tuesday, April 25, 2023
Decision coming on Santa Clara's proposed interim housing for homeless
Santa Clara City Council could move forward with the project that organizations say would help the homeless while they look for longer-term housing.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Clara residents express concerns about a new interim housing project for the homeless.

The city of Santa Clara is collaborating with the county of Santa Clara and LifeMoves. They're proposing to build temporary housing for the homeless on the corner of Benton Street and Lawrence Expressway.

UPDATE: Santa Clara has delayed the approval of temporary housing for the unhoused community. The vote came just after midnight Wednesday following a seven-hour special hearing that included extensive public comment on the proposal. It is now on the calendar for Tuesday, May 2.

City Council could act forward with the project as soon as Tuesday.

Santa Clara's housing manager Adam Marcus says the focus will be on families with children.

"It's really about timing and how to house people in the short term while they're looking for longer-term solutions," Marcus said.

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The three-story building would be a permanent structure that will have 30 family units with bathrooms and kitchenettes. The typical stay would be three to six months. It would have on-site support services, provide three meals a day and be staffed 24/7.

"So in some cases, families may be couch surfing they may be living in their car and this provides a safer more decent place to live temporarily while you're connected to services," Marcus said.

Bella Vista Inn, the hotel converted as an interim housing site located half a mile away is only temporary.

"Only about another year or two and then it's going to be converted into permanent housing development. And so once that happens there won't be interim housing left anymore in Santa Clara," Marcus said.

Marcus says the project has changed since receiving community input.

The plan went from a four-story building with 120 units to three stories and 30 family units.

"There are immediate needs so if you're able to build something relatively quick - if this project were to go forward it would be modular housing and that can be built in a much faster timeline," Marcus said.

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Some residents who live in homes and apartments surrounding the proposed site are speaking up in opposition as much as they can.

More than 5,300 people have signed a petition.

Thomas MacDevitt is a longtime Santa Clara resident.

"They're selling us something and they've changed it so many times without us being able to respond to it and when you just crunch these numbers they don't add up," MacDevitt said.

Vishal Tanna said he has anxiety over this project.

"There is no age limit for kids right, so the kids can be as old as eighteen years. So my feelings don't change whether it's for families or adults," Tanna said.

Tanna and another resident, Eshish Verma, brought up the unclear screening process of how people would be selected.

"When somebody is bringing the transient population, without a background check, no screening whatsoever, 300 feet away from my home I have a right to say something about it," Tann said.

"There has not been any attempt made to make us feel better about any kind of screening process or background check," Verma said.

Marcus explained that this project is considered Emergency Interim Housing. EIH communities are funded primarily with state and federal grants which require them to use "Housing First" principles and a "low barrier" placement process which limits what screening criteria can be applied.

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Marcus said all the potential residents in Santa Clara County are referred through the Here4You hotline.

"The hotline establishes a person/household has met the basic requirements for the program which include their present geographical location, any challenges to success (such as mobility or health issues that require accommodations) and their overall safety for placement in the facility with the existing population," Marcus said. "For example, certain registered sex offenders are not placed in buildings where households with children reside."

As far as next steps, the city can decide whether or not to move forward during Tuesday's meeting.

Marcus said if the city does move forward, the County Board of Supervisors will have to approve funding, agree to lease the land and take a few more steps to support the Homekey application.

The CEO of Destination Home, Ray Bramson, says these short-term housing sites can play a pivotal role.

"When there is this linkage we see an extremely high success rate in people moving on," Bramson said. "The key is this is just one stop on a person's journey. This isn't the solution this is part of a much larger supportive housing system."

The renderings you see in the video are of a Palo Alto project and a reference to what the structure could look like.

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