Apple cleans up San Jose camp, houses residents in motels

SAN JOSE – Taking an unusual hands-on approach to the homeless crisis in its backyard, Apple pulled dozens of people out of a homeless camp on its property this week – putting many of them in motels and providing advice and other services on its own account. .

At the behest of the tech giant, outreach workers moved the few remaining residents on Friday, closing a camp that over the past year has turned into a sprawling maze of motorhomes, cars, tents and about 200 tonnes of waste. Each resident was offered a nine-month stay in a motel, as well as 12 months of case management services to address addictions, mental health, long-term housing plans and more, which resulted in cost Apple millions of dollars, said Andrea Urton, CEO of nonprofit. HomeFirst, which works with Apple on the site.

While some camp residents have been reluctant to trust the company’s openings, Urton said Apple’s shares are a shining example of what more private companies should do to deal with the suffering of the roughly 30,000. homeless people in the five Bay Area counties.

“I think Apple’s level of involvement is incredible, to be quite frank,” said Urton. “They could just kick these people out, throw their things away and move them. This is not what they chose to do.

Dozens of people lived on Component Drive on vacant land Apple had reserved for its North San Jose campus. As part of a $ 2.5 billion pledge to address housing and homelessness crises in the region, Apple pledged in 2019 to make some of that land available for affordable housing. But progress has been slow and no plan has been formalized.

Apple did not disclose exactly how much it was spending to help the residents of the camp or how many people it had relocated. In a statement released in August, the company said it has been coordinating with local partners for months to support people living in the camp and find them alternative accommodation.

A handful of Camp Apple residents declined the company’s offer of a motel room – many because they had RVs or other vehicles they didn’t want to be separated from. For them, the city plans to open an emergency secure parking site on Vista Montaña on Tuesday, according to Daniel Lazo, spokesperson for the San José Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services.

As a third alternative, camp residents were also offered space in Santa Clara County’s largest homeless shelter, the Boccardo Regional Reception Center. A few people declined all three choices, Urton said.

For Frank Pacheco, 53, who had lived in an RV at the camp for two years, his new Apple-sponsored motel room is “the best thing I could have.”

Pacheco, a former mechanic who is recovering from a work-related head injury, hopes his stay at the motel will give him a chance to rest, recover – and possibly find a job.

“It’s a wonderful thing that Apple is doing for us,” he said. “They have nothing to do for us. They might just kick us off the property. They might just feed us to the wolves.

SAN JOSE, CA – September 03: A view of a campground on vacant Apple-owned land along Component Drive, which has been largely dismantled, is pictured on September 3, 2021 in San Jose, California. Apple has paid to move many of the residents to motel rooms and provides them with a year of case management services. (Dai Sugano / Bay Area News Group)

Robert Carlson, 48, had lived at Apple’s encampment for almost two years, sleeping in a trailer he describes as a studio on wheels. He declined the offer of a hotel room because he didn’t want to be separated from his trailer, and he didn’t trust Apple and HomeFirst’s promise to store it.

Instead, he’ll try his luck at the new secure parking site.

“I’m going to try it out and see what happens,” Carlson said. “I’ll give it a shot.”

But the timing of the new secure parking lot worries activist Shaunn Cartwright, who has worked with homeless residents of Camp Apple. She wishes Apple had waited to clean up the camp until residents had access to the parking program. Instead, people were forced to move their RVs and vehicles off Apple property without having a clear place to go.

“I think Apple rushed this, because of their irrational and immutable end date today,” Cartwright said Friday. “If they had pushed this further to deal with the city’s slow date for safe parking, I think it would have been fairer for people.”

Apple’s funding will also provide residents with clothing, food and everything they need – even dental care for a resident without teeth, Urton said. She hopes that by having a safe place to sleep and meeting their basic needs, residents can focus on healing their physical ailments and improving their mental health. At the end of the nine months, some people who are not working may be ready to work, she said.

But what Apple doesn’t do is provide anyone with a long-term solution. Due to the county’s extremely limited stock of affordable housing, Urton said she cannot promise any residents accommodation after their nine-month stay at the motel is over. And if someone has no income, there is no way they can afford even low income housing.

“This is the sad reality in this situation,” she said.

Even so, Urton is hopeful that more companies will replicate the measures taken by Apple. It is clear that cities, counties and even the state do not have the resources to solve homelessness on their own. But if they partnered with companies with deep pockets, it could make a big difference, she said.

“If every business took responsibility for what’s going on with homelessness in their neighborhood,” said Urton, “I think we would get there. “

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