Santa Clara County supervisors and community partners gathered on Monday to kick off the opening of Casitas de Esperanza at the Civic Center -- a collection of tiny homes located outside of the old San Jose City Hall.
The new tiny home site will provide temporary emergency housing to 25 unhoused families with children in the county for 120 days.
"One of the things that has been so exciting about this project is its focus on children and families," Supervisor Cindy Chavez said.
Amigos de Guadalupe Center for Justice and Empowerment, a county partner, will run the site and provide services like case management and educational services to help children get matriculated back into schools.
"One of the greatest contributors of homelessness is feeling isolation and disconnection that marginalizes our homeless population," Amigos de Guadalupe executive director Maritza Maldonado said. "Creating points of connection through case management, building a community…helps individuals and families reconnect to the world around them, putting them on a path to empowerment, self-sufficiency and finally permanent housing."
Casitas de Esperanza was intentionally designed to foster a sense of community -- something that many unhoused individuals lack, leading to further isolation and moving them further away from the ability to get housed again.
Each tiny home has four bunks that can fold down and double as a bed or table, shelving to store belongings, HVAC unit and electricity with outlets to charge cellphones, laptops and other items.
The site also includes two staff offices and a 400-square-foot community room. In addition, a San Jose small business, Plantlush, donated landscaping and plants to create a more community feel at the site. Project WeHope will also provide a shower trailer four days a week and a laundry trailer that will also be on site four days a week.
County officials said the tiny homes, manufactured by Seattle-based company Pallet, were "chosen after extensive market research for their timeliness in manufacturing and build, as well as their relative cost effectiveness."
An example is that it will use solar microgrids, manufactured by BoxPower, which will provide 85 percent of the electricity used, County Office of Supportive Housing director Consuelo Hernandez said.
The development of this new site is part of the county's goal to end homelessness. One of the tenets of that goal is to double the amount of temporary shelter beds from 2,000 to 4,000.
This new site brings the county closer to their goal by an additional 100 beds. The new site also helps accomplish the county's goal to end homelessness by providing case management services, educational resources and other services to help families get back into a permanent home.
However, Chavez said the shelters are only a temporary solution to address the emergency that the pandemic exacerbated.
The county hopes to transform the land to have permanent housing.
"This emergency shelter and the land it sits on symbolizes how Santa Clara County is going to transition from temporary housing to permanent housing," Chavez said. "In the meantime, we are making the best use we can of this land and making sure we have more opportunities for emergency shelters until we can build all the permanent shelters that we need."