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'Failed Experiment' To House Homeless In RV Park Costs San Jose $1.3 Million

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- San Jose homeless advocates are demanding answers about how a city program to house people in trailers during the pandemic failed.

A small group gathered just outside the gates of Happy Hollow Park. Inside the parking lot, 90 refurbished FEMA trailers, which were a gift from the state of California, sit empty in what the city calls a "failed experiment" to house the homeless.

"If you invest $1.3 million in a project, you should have something to show for it. And all they have to show for it are empty trailers," said homeless advocate Shaunn Cartwright.

The $1.3 million was used to refurbish and set up the trailers like an RV park. The city paid another $700,000 on a contract with homeless housing provider Abode Services to operate the park until October.

But sewage backed up, there were electrical problems and elderly people picked to live in the trailers because of pre-existing health conditions had trouble accessing the site.

Only 37 people lived in the trailers for three weeks before the city pulled the plug blaming escalating costs.

Added all up, the city spent over $54,000 per person on the failed plan.

"We were hoping that the city would at least use the trailers after they spent that much money for people who desperately need them. Instead, it seems to have gone for nothing," said homeless advocate Amanda Cole.

Santa Clara County officials stepped in to move 25 of the residents into motel rooms.

"This is the Silicon Valley, we're always trying to innovate, but this was not a good innovation," said Councilmember Johnny Khamis.

Khamis said the city is moving ahead with permanent housing solutions for unhoused people, but like many, he wants answers on where the city goes from here.

"What happens to the trailers now? Are we going to sell them? What are we going to do? And what happens to the Abode contract? Are we going to get refunded?"

Khamis said he was later assured that the city would get a partial refund from Abode.

A full accounting of the program and plans for what to do with the trailers will be discussed by the San Jose City Council next week.

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