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Santa Clara Co. board approves encampment lease

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The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agreed to a 6-month pilot program Tuesday for the Hope Village homeless encampment, a temporary housing solution that officials hope will be a model for the region.

Per the agreement, introduced by Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Dave Cortese, the county will lease a parcel of land from the city of San Jose for $1 a month and provide space for up to 14 people.

The county will decide to extend the agreement and accommodate 30 people after monitoring the small tent city.

At the board’s meeting, organizers and residents of Hope Village thanked the city and county for their support, but stressed that housing 14 people was a small step toward creating a model that can be replicated throughout the area.

Seven people currently live at the camp, which popped up in a state-owned parking lot next to Mineta San Jose International Airport on Sept. 9, then was pushed to an adjacent lot owned by the Service Employees International Union Local 1877.

Beginning last week, organizers had urged local officials to sign the short-term lease. Hope Village founder Peter Miron-Conk said at today’s meeting the camp is grateful for the new arrangement, but the city and county’s continued support could lead to much more progress.

Miron-Conk said:

“Our rag-tag army of four people … was able to accomplish something that had not been able to be done in a number of years.”

Hope Village resident Charles Nelson said he was skeptical when he first heard about the project, but it has changed his life. Nelson had been forced to drop out of San Jose City College last year after being subjected to difficult living conditions on the creek bed and train tracks.

Nelson said:

“I do anything now, and not have to worry about coming back to my camp and nothing being there.”

At least some of the camp’s residents have been given motel vouchers while the county prepares the new site, located adjacent to the SEIU lot. Workers are trimming trees, removing shrubs and creating proper drainage in the field.

Between seven to 12 people who already lived in the field have also vacated the area. Ky Le, director of the county’s Office of Supportive Housing, said at the meeting that everyone cooperated in the move.

Hope Village is exclusive to individuals who do not have substance abuse or mental health issues, and not everyone who lived on the site previously fits the bill.

When the site is completed, there will be areas outside of Hope Village’s fence that can accommodate additional residents, Janice Rombeck, spokeswoman for Cortese, said. Residents were not swept from the area and have the option of returning, she said.

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