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Santa Clara County Launches Tiny Homes Site For Unhoused Families With Children

SAN JOSE (KPIX/BCN/CBS SF) -- Supervisors and community partners in Santa Clara County gathered on Monday to kick off the opening of Casitas de Esperanza at the Civic Center -- a collection of tiny homes located outside of the old San Jose City Hall.

The new tiny home site located at 801 N. 1st Street, will provide temporary emergency housing to 25 unhoused families with children in the county for 120 days.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said one of the goals is to show tiny home communities can be good neighbors.

"And then proving to the neighborhood that when we tell them it's going to be a benefit for all, that it really is," said Chavez. "One of the things that has been so exciting about this project is its focus on children and families."

Amigos de Guadalupe Center for Justice and Empowerment, a county partner, will run the site and provide services like case management and educational services to help children get matriculated back into schools.

"One of the greatest contributors of homelessness is feeling isolation and disconnection that marginalizes our homeless population," Amigos de Guadalupe executive director Maritza Maldonado said. "Creating points of connection through case management, building a community...helps individuals and families reconnect to the world around them, putting them on a path to empowerment, self-sufficiency and finally permanent housing."

Laura Delgado, the housing manager for Amigos de Guadalupe, recalls meeting the first family to move in, a mother named Araly, and her two daughters, Raquel, 5 and Martha, 4.

"One of the little girls opened the door and said 'Mi casita!' Which means in English, my home, my little house," said Delgado.

Delgado translated Araly's comments to reporters at a press event Monday.

"She wants to first start by thanking everybody for their support and she says that she and her family are very happy and pleased to be here. Her daughters are very excited."

Casitas de Esperanza was intentionally designed to foster a sense of community -- something that many unhoused individuals lack, leading to further isolation and moving them further away from the ability to get housed again.

Each tiny home has four bunks that can fold down and double as a bed or table, shelving to store belongings, HVAC unit and electricity with outlets to charge cellphones, laptops and other items.

The site also includes two staff offices and a 400-square-foot community room.

In addition, a San Jose small business, Plantlush, donated landscaping and plants to create a more community feel at the site.

Project WeHope will also provide a shower trailer four days a week and a laundry trailer that will also be on site four days a week.

County officials said the tiny homes, manufactured by Seattle-based company Pallet, were "chosen after extensive market research for their timeliness in manufacturing and build, as well as their relative cost effectiveness."

An example is that it will use solar microgrids, manufactured by BoxPower, which will provide 85 percent of the electricity used, County Office of Supportive Housing director Consuelo Hernandez said.

The development of this new site is part of the county's goal to end homelessness.

One of the tenets of that goal is to double the amount of temporary shelter beds from 2,000 to 4,000. This new site brings the county closer to their goal by an additional 100 beds.

The tiny homes are a significant step in the county's "2020-2025 Plan to End Homelessness", which includes reducing the inflow of new homelessness by 30 percent annually, build supportive housing for 20,000 people, expanding prevention programs, and doubling the current stock of temporary housing.

County Supervisor Otto Lee said "NIMBYism" is one of the county's biggest challenges, but one that can be overcome with trust, and managing fears and expectations of increased crime and blight from the tiny homes.

"When people can see the actual project, that's successful like this pilot project, then they say 'Hey, it's not as bad as I thought.' I think that will be the ultimate goal so that everybody will come together, to support our ideas to help our residents," said Lee.

However, Chavez said the shelters are only a temporary solution to address the emergency that the pandemic exacerbated. The county hopes to transform the land to have permanent housing.

"This emergency shelter and the land it sits on symbolizes how Santa Clara County is going to transition from temporary housing to permanent housing," Chavez said. "In the meantime, we are making the best use we can of this land and making sure we have more opportunities for emergency shelters until we can build all the permanent shelters that we need."

The site prep and build for Casitas de Esperanza was $1.4 million, with $1.6 million budgeted for maintenance and operation for the next two years.

© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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