sj homeless

KCBS Radio/Matt Bigler

Homeless Numbers Soar In San Jose

Matt Bigler
May 17, 2019 - 10:38 am

SAN JOSE — Alameda, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties are seeing huge spikes in their homeless populations, according to new counts of people living on the streets.

The biggest increase is in the city of San Jose, where homelessness has grown by 42% over the last two years. More than 6,100 people are now living on the city's streets.

Evidence of the increase is everywhere — from the tents and RVs that are pitched or parked near Mineta San Jose International Airport and in nearly every neighborhood, to the garbage left behind by transients.

Amir is one of dozens of people who sleeps in downtown San Jose's St. James Park. 

He told KCBS Radio that California is a popular spot for the homeless to land. 

"I've been homeless for seven years, and during the seven years I've been going up and down the coast of California," he said. "I've met a lot of people coming in from other states around the nation." 

Santa Clara county has the highest number of homeless of all Bay Area counties - a total of about 9,700 people. The numbers are calculated from overnight tallies required every two years by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development. More detailed reports are expected later this year. Local officials are worried the totals could go higher once those updated numbers are released. 

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Another denizen of St. James Park said he prefers staying there compared to shelters. 

"I like being out here like this, I like being outside better ... I sleep better outside," he noted.

KCBS Radio was there earlier this year when San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo took part in the homeless count in his city. He reacted with frustration to these new numbers. 

"We are not reducing homelessness, because as quickly as we are able to house one individual, three more people are being pushed outside," Liccardo said. "The only way we solve this is by embracing the responsibility we all have."

Liccardo is calling on residents who are housed to drop what he calls their "NIMBY" attitudes about transitional and affordable housing in order to get more people off the streets.