February 21, 2024

For years, the Guadalupe River Path — a winding path that snakes by way of the center of downtown San Jose — had been dwelling to tons of of individuals dwelling in tents and make-shift shacks.

In latest months, many have vanished as a part of a $750 million-push by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration — dubbed the Encampment Decision Fund — to clear homeless encampments from cities all through California.

“The earlier than and after images are stark,” stated San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan. “You might have an space that was simply filled with trash and tents and RVs and belongings and graffiti. There have been actually chickens working round. And now it’s coming again to public use. Persons are beginning to stroll the path, bike the path, have a look at the river.”

However an evaluation of preliminary progress stories submitted to the state, in addition to interviews with early Encampment Decision Fund grant recipients, exhibits this system has had combined outcomes up and down California. Even in San Jose, it hasn’t met its overarching purpose of discovering everlasting housing for most people moved off the river path.

Greater than a 12 months after the checks went out, almost two-thirds of the $48 million awarded within the first spherical of statewide grants has been spent. The cash has paid for every little thing from shelter beds to case employees to safety deposits so folks dwelling in encampments may hire flats. However to date, solely three of the 19 jurisdictions that acquired funding reported utterly clearing their focused encampments. Almost 750 folks nonetheless lived in these camps as of the top of September, in line with the most recent information out there from the state.

The primary-round grants have to be spent by the top of June.

Even in cities and counties which have had success transferring folks off the road and into momentary shelters, it’s confirmed a lot tougher to seek out everlasting housing. San Jose used the state funding to maneuver almost 200 folks off the river path — a heavy elevate the town beforehand had been unable to perform. However simply 11% of these folks made it into everlasting housing. One other 37% moved into momentary shelter. The town doesn’t know what occurred to the others: Greater than half the folks relocated from the path are unaccounted for.

Throughout the state, tons of of people that had been moved out of encampments final 12 months and in 2022, utilizing state cash, nonetheless are in shelters, ready for a house of their very own.

“I feel what we’re actually seeing throughout the board and with this funding is it’s simply taking a lot longer to get folks into housing as a result of there’s a scarcity of reasonably priced sources,” stated Jennifer Hark Dietz, CEO of PATH, a homeless providers nonprofit that labored with San Jose and a number of other different cities to manage the grants.

From encampment to housing

As an alternative of merely shuffling unhoused folks from one camp to a different — as had been widespread observe for years — Newsom insisted this program would give attention to getting folks into housing.  Cities and counties looking for funding should show they both will transfer encampment residents immediately into everlasting housing, or into momentary shelters with “clear pathways” to everlasting housing.  The state rejected an utility from Chico as a result of its plan for everlasting housing fell quick, stated Chico Deputy Metropolis Supervisor Jennifer Macarthy.

However drawing a straight line from an encampment to a long-term dwelling is less complicated stated than completed.

Tulare, within the Central Valley, used its $1.6 million grant to clear 5 encampments the place about 100 folks lived. However it couldn’t provide you with sufficient beds for everybody, and as folks moved out of the camps, new folks stored exhibiting up.

As an alternative of discovering everybody a house, the town ended up giving 150 folks tents and transferring them right into a sanctioned encampment. As of December, solely 44 folks from the 5 camps had landed in everlasting housing.

However that’s no less than double the speed Tulare was housing folks earlier than it acquired the state cash, stated Housing and Grants Supervisor Alexis Costales, who describes this system as successful. Tulare gained one other $4.8 million within the state’s second spherical of encampment grants, and hopes that cash will get extra folks housed.

Los Angeles gained a $1.7 million grant, which put 45 unhoused folks up in a motel for a number of months. However motel rooms are costly, and by the point these funds ran out, solely about half had discovered everlasting housing, stated Hark Dietz. Six folks left this system, and the remainder moved into shelters, the place PATH continues to work with them to seek out housing.

Santa Barbara County is utilizing a part of its $2.5 million grant to open two new tiny properties websites which, beginning this spring, will present momentary shelter to dozens of individuals dwelling in encampments. Up to now county employees have reached out to about 200 camp residents, and introduced 81 inside. Of these, 52 made it to everlasting housing, stated the county’s Encampment Response Coordinator Lucille Boss.

“We couldn’t have completed loads of this with out the state’s funding,” Boss stated.

In San Jose, Mahan stated many individuals declined the town’s shelter beds. Considered one of them was Alicia Spangenberg. Outreach employees provided her a tiny dwelling, however the 27-year-old, who has been homeless almost 5 years, isn’t able to sacrifice her freedom and privateness to stay in a tiny dwelling with shared loos and observe this system’s guidelines.

“On the finish of the day,” she stated, “it’s whether or not anyone desires to be helped.”

Alicia Spangenberg, who’s unhoused and sleeps alongside the path, at Guadalupe River Park in San Jose, Jan. 12, 2024. Picture by Loren Elliott for CalMatters

California cities quickly could have extra freedom to clear homeless encampments if the Supreme Court docket strikes down a 2018 ruling that had largely tied their fingers. In Martin v. Boise, the Ninth Circuit Court docket of Appeals discovered cities can not punish unhoused folks for tenting on public land in the event that they don’t have any different choice — which cities interpreted to imply they will need to have shelter beds out there earlier than clearing a camp.

No matter what occurs in that case, Newsom’s administration has made clear that cities hoping to make use of state encampment decision funds should do greater than merely kick folks out of an encampment. They have to plan to “resolve the expertise of unsheltered homelessness” for the camp residents.

Restricted funding