San Jose

Rain, Mud Present Additional Challenges for Homeless People at SJ Encampment

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At one of the largest encampments in the South Bay, homeless people are cut off from critical necessities following recent storms.

Heavy rains have turned a city-owned vacant lot at Spring and Hedding streets in San Jose into a muddy mess.

"This is a state of emergency," unhoused advocate Gail Osmer said. "People are living like dogs."

For Frances Powell, the biggest problem is accessing the portable toilets.

"I’m in a wheelchair," she said. "I can’t even make it to the outhouses. A lot of times, my boyfriend carries me."

Robert Rodriguez has lived at the site for six months. He said mud is seeping into his tent. On Monday, he could barely drive his vehicle through the sludge. He, too, said the simple act of getting to a bathroom is now his biggest challenge.

"It's just very muddy," he said. "It's very difficult when you need to use the restroom and it's right there, but there's too much water, mud."

The 40-acre site is designated to serve as a buffer between the airport and the community in case of a plane crash. The FAA has demanded the airport clear the camp of more than 200 people by next July or risk losing millions of dollars in federal funding.

But, for now, it's the only place the homeless people have.

The San Jose Housing Department said it set up 26 portable toilets at a location a few blocks away off Taylor Street in anticipation of heavy rains. The city also said outreach teams are working through the holidays, providing supplies to encampments as everyone braces for another rainy week ahead.

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