By early next year, the city of San Jose will begin revamping two houses in order to shelter homeless veterans. But, in a twist, it seems to be costing another family their home.
City housing officials gave Michael Gonzales, his partner Felicia Blanco and their 16-year-old son official notice to vacate by Feb. 1. The trio, which has struggled with homelessness themselves, has lived on Vermont Street in the Rose Garden neighborhood for the past eight years.
The former rehabilitation facility will be renovated to become the Vermont House, a 16-bed facility intended to house homeless veterans.
Since 2007, the Gonzales family says they have taken care of the rundown homes, cleaning up the yards and keeping squatters out.
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"It was a disaster. There were holes in these walls, hypodermic needles behind the couches," Blanco said.
Blanco and Gonzales were living in a truck after Gonzales was hospitalized for a staph infection and MRSA after being injured working construction. The two were collecting cans for coins on Vermont Street when a real estate spotted them.
"We met a man by the name of Richmond Brock -- great guy, one of the best men I’ve ever met in my life," Gonzales said, explaining Brock offered them work and eventually a place to stay.
Approximately five years ago, the city took over and notified the family their living situation would be temporary.
"We’ve always been on edge because we knew they were going to sell it," Gonzales said.
Housing officials also began charging them $417 a month for rent.
"This was never intended to be a permanent situation," said Ray Bramson, homeless response manager for the City of San Jose.
Bramson says the plan was always to house homeless veterans, but it was just a matter of getting funding. The San Jose City Council approved a $3 million grant in November for the project.
Blanco has a son in the Marines, so she’s glad homeless veterans will have a new place to live.
"We’ve been helped for so many years and there are a lot of veterans coming back that need the help," Blanco said.
The city says it is not an option to allow the family to stay on as caretakers, but will help move the family by offering subsidies to the family.
"We don’t view it as swapping whatever. We’re making every effort we can to get people into stable housing. We’re getting 16 people off the street and we’re hopefully going to be able to move this family into a stable living situation," Bramson said.
Currently, Gonzales and Blanco are not working outside their caretaking duties because of previous injuries, and are living on disability and worker’s compensation, respectively. They fear it will be challenging to find a landlord who will accept housing vouchers.
We’re kind of feeling like we’re going to be back on the street again," Gonzales said.