SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- A new idea is taking shape in San Jose to help the down and out get out of tents and doorways and into more sturdy shelters. The idea involves building new neighborhoods for the homeless with shed-sized buildings.
The high-end sheds at The Shed Shop in Fremont were never designed to house the homeless
"The most common use is a home office," said Paul Johnston of The Shed Shop
But with sturdy doors and windows, two-by-four construction, insulation and built-in electrical wiring they could be very livable.
"These are made just like a little house would be made," Johnston said.
And that's the idea behind a new idea at San Jose City Hall to help the homeless.
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Two councilmembers who are running against each other for mayor have jointly written a memo calling on the city to build new neighborhoods for the homeless using shed-sized "microhouses" or "housing pods."
It's already worked in a handful of cities, including Grass Valley and Eugene, Oregon.
"We're looking at trying to identify public spaces, publicly owned land where we can get a lot of microhousing out there," said Councilmember Sam Liccardo.
Councilmember Rose Herrera, who also supports the plan, said, "It's far better to be living in a small home that you can call your own than to be living in a creek in unsafe conditions and unsanitary conditions."
The dwellings can be built for about $5,000. They are typically under 150 square feet, with no running water. Bathrooms and kitchens would be communal
Homeless advocates said they do have advantages. "When you give somebody a key to their own door, their own house, that they can call their own that's a victory," said Jenny Niklaus of HomeFirst.
Niklaus said there are 7,000 homeless people in San Jose, and with rising rents and shortages of housing, more are being added every day.
"Right now to afford an apartment in San Jose, you have to make more than $30 an hour. It's stunning the gap between what people can afford and what is real. For people who are homeless, living on a subsidy, a place like a little home helps overcome those barriers."
The councilmembers plan to introduce their proposal next week.
Last winter, four homeless people in San Jose died from exposure.
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