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Mahan: The answer to solving San Jose’s homeless problem? All of the above


Despite billions and billions in spending, no city in California has yet to adequately address the homelessness crisis.

We can — and must — make San Jose the first.

We can, because we know what’s working. For years, we failed to prioritize immediate, safe alternatives to life on our streets and in our creeks. Recently we’ve decided not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And it’s paying off. Since implementing our all-of-the-above approach, we’re seeing rates of unsheltered homelessness go down.

San Jose has shown that there isn’t just one solution to homelessness, because there are many causes of homelessness.

Some people struggling with an addiction or mental illness aren’t ready to live in a permanent affordable housing unit on their own. Many survivors of domestic violence won’t ever feel safe in a congregate shelter. Most of our chronically homeless neighbors need time to reacclimate to living indoors before they’re ready for a place of their own. A few of our most vulnerable residents simply need help getting a plane ride home to family.

But no one can turn their lives around while living in a tent along the creek. It’s profoundly difficult to apply for a job without regular access to showers and laundry. And to try to address mental illness alone without counseling, access to medication or regular support is close to impossible.

The point is that we can embrace the entire spectrum of solutions that work — from safe sleeping sites and treatment centers to tiny homes and affordable housing. It isn’t one or the other, it’s all the above, monitored with clear metrics and a relentless focus on results.

And this year, we don’t have a choice in the matter. We must invest in faster approaches, because recent regulatory mandates mean monumental penalties if we don’t eliminate pollution entering our waterways — 88% of which comes from people living in unmanaged, unsheltered conditions along our waterways.

We must invest in public dashboards and reporting as advised by the state auditor so that our community knows exactly where their tax dollars are going and how their investments are leading to better outcomes on homelessness. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he’s no longer going to fund failure — it’s time we showed him what success looks like.

Our back-to-basics budget this year will construct over 600 tiny homes, create safe-sleeping sites with capacity for 500 homeless neighbors, open a new safe-parking site to move 100 lived-in vehicles off our streets, help more homeless residents return home to their families, and keep investing in programs that pay our homeless neighbors to clean up our streets and invest in their job skills as they work toward a better life. It also continues the homelessness prevention program that has kept 3,900 households from falling into homelessness.

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