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San Jose Moves Forward With High-Rise Homeless Shelter

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- South Bay officials are considering a new housing idea to help the homeless that would place those in need in a downtown high rise.

The apartment building would be built next to St. James Park downtown, which has the highest concentration of homeless in the city

In the midst of a cold and wet winter, help for the homeless came Tuesday from private donors who gave out 80 sleeping bags near McLaughlin and I-280.

"I hope they sleep well tonight and they feel warmth," said Adnan Rasheed of the South Bay Islamic Association.

But something much more permanent might be coming next.

The San Jose City Council approved a $16 million loan to a developer and a homeless agency to build and run the city's first homeless high rise. The proposed building is six stories tall and would have 84 units.

"This is the most cost-effective way to confront homelessness, to get people housed," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. "Because we know when they are out on the streets, they are much more expensive to house."

Known as Villas on the Park, the shelter would go here on North Second Street and would also provide services such as job and life skills, drug and mental health counseling.

The goal is to transition people like Felix Hernandez into permanent housing.

"The homeless population just keeps expanding down here," said homeless South Bay resident Felix Hernandez. "When I became homeless, I thought it would be for only one month, but it's been well over ten years."

Robert Aguirre once lived on the streets and now advocates for the homeless. He says the agencies involved have already surveyed people living in the park who many would call chronically homeless.

"The majority of the people surveyed said they would prefer to be indoors," said Aguirre.

The plan could also finally allow the city to develop St. James Park into an outdoor entertainment venue. That plan has been on hold for years because of its unsavory reputation.

"But that by no means is justification for doing this homeless project. We're doing it because a lot of people need it," said Liccardo.

The measure is expected to pass. Officials say they plan on trying to replicate the high-rise project in other parts of the city as well to accommodate the many homeless.

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