Volunteers began setting up the sanctioned Hope Village homeless encampment on Sept. 27 in its new home in San Jose for at least the next six months.
The encampment, which began as an unsanctioned collection of fenced-off tents and privately funded resources, began rallying local support after it received an eviction notice from the California Highway Patrol earlier this month.
Santa Clara County leaders eventually agreed to a short-term lease from the city of San Jose for $1 a month. Hope Village will now be regarded as a pilot program for other sanctioned encampments in the area.
About 12 people had already been living in tents at the location for up to seven years. County officials said they were given motel vouchers and allowed to return when the renovations were complete.
A fence now separates the sanctioned and unsanctioned tents, and Supervisor Dave Cortese said he hopes the lot doesn’t become a “tale of two encampments.”
“The idea is to be humane, helpful and constructive in trying to deal with [the unsanctioned camp],” Cortese said. “[Hope Village] is a very compassionate group. I can’t imagine them just turning a blind eye to people sitting right next to them.”
Hope Village founder Peter Miron-Conk said he hasn’t encountered any problems with current residents of the unsanctioned camp, but worries the fenced-off portion of the lot allows too much extra room for additional tents.
Hope Village is limited to residents who do not have substance abuse or serious mental health issues, and a large group of homeless individuals do not meet these requirements.
Miron-Conk said Hope Village would inevitably be blamed for any issues that arise in the surrounding area, like noise, drug use or violence, but said the group will prioritize humanity in its decision-making.
Hope Village organizers and county officials stressed that the residents of the unsanctioned encampment will not be swept, and Cortese said San Jose officials have not indicated any intention to sweep the tents.
Cortese added that the county is working with Hope Village to determine if the encampment will need law enforcement. This could entail Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputy patrols or visiting bailiffs who work at the nearby courthouse.
“I don’t want [the residents] complaining,” he said. “This is supposed to be somewhat of a self-governed encampment.”
The county has agreed to a cap of 14 residents for the start of the pilot program. Hope Village organizers and community advocates say they are pushing for at least 30 to create a valid, replicable model for temporary housing.
Story originally published by Bay City News.