San Jose housing officials are notifying about 100 homeless people living in tents on undeveloped parkland downtown that they must leave before an area clean up begins on Friday, a city official said.
The city is trying to relocate people who have been residing on a 28-acre stretch of undeveloped land just west of the Guadalupe River since around late December, said Ray Bramson, homeless encampment response manager for the city's Housing Department.
Bramson said he and his staff, who have been talking to residents there for some time, will give them 72 hours notice to vacate by Friday when San Jose police officers will assist in clearing out the camps.
The city will assist the homeless in finding local shelters to live in and places to store their belongings for up to 90 days, Bramson said. "We will give them every opportunity to move and find alternative housing," Bramson said.
But as of Friday, "there will be more of a police presence" in the area, he added. "We will continue to look at strategies for preventing re-encampment."
The grassy, wooded site, on Spring Street between West Hedding and Taylor streets, is in the path of flights at nearby Mineta San Jose International Airport and was left vacant for emergency landings to comply with Federal Aviation Administration rules, Bramson said.
About 100 people are now living there, many inside new-looking campground tents designed for multiple inhabitants that were donated by "charitable people in our community," Bramson said. The existence of so many people on the vacant, park-like site shows how extensive the homeless situation is in the San Jose area, Bramson said.
"There are thousands of people on the street on any given night," he said. The encampment started growing about late December and early January following a clean up of a previous encampment on state-owned land along the Guadalupe River, Bramson said. Campfires and the trash they leave on the land are degrading the area's habitat for wildlife, including migratory birds that use it for safe passage and steelhead trout that use a creek there to spawn, Bramson said.
People who use the Guadalupe Trail along the river and walk their dogs in the habitat have complained to the city about the residents as well, he said. In the meantime, the city is compiling a registry of the homeless in San Jose to identify the 1,000 most vulnerable individuals, based on factors such as mental health, disabilities, age and length of homelessness, Bramson said.
The city intends to complete the list of the most vulnerable by 2015 and find them places to stay for extended periods in subsidized housing throughout Santa Clara County, he said.