San Jose Looks at Using Vacant Motels to Address Homeless Issue

By Chase Cain
|  Tuesday, Feb 25, 2014  |  Updated 6:22 AM PDT
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A plan to use vacant motels and hotels as long-term housing for San Jose's large homeless population has moved forward. Chase Cain reports.

A plan to use vacant motels and hotels as long-term housing for San Jose's large homeless population has moved forward. Chase Cain reports.

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San Jose is considering using vacant motels and hotels as long-term housing for the city's large homeless population.

The city has struggled to find a solution to helping get the more than 4,700 homeless people off the streets and into shelter. Officials are now looking at the possibility of working with non-profits to lease rooms and allow the homeless to stay in vacant motels and hotels.

"The idea is if someone can get housed, they can then move out of homelessness, out of temporary housing and into a permanent job," Councilwoman Rose Hererra said. "And that's really what we're after here."

Hererra chairs a committee which began discussing the new homeless plan on Monday

"Again, it's a pilot," she said. "We don't have to keep going in this direction, but we want to try this because we think there's some potential benefits."

It would take about $40 per person, per day to fund the plan, which city leaders said is cheaper than running shelters. To house 60 people would cost about $1 million annually.

Supporters said the number of affordable housing options are shrinking as the homeless population grows and shelters are often full.

The plan would call for non-profits to offer up rooms to homeless people for up to five years, along with services to help them find jobs and permanent housing.

San Jose officials said about 100 homeless people have publicly-funded vouchers for subsidized housing, but cannot find places that will accept them.

But not everyone is on board with spending tax dollars on the plan.

"These motels are already located in a high-crime area -- prostitution, illegal drugs, dumping," said Aurelia Sanchez, who lives near some of the vacant motels being considered by the city. "

Dave Treslow is another resident who opposes the plan.

"I would urge you to kick this back," he said. "Tell them to do their homework so we can start to solve this problem."

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