San Jose coalition must raise six-figures to fund homeless center

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A plan to transform a vacant building near downtown into a homeless hub may fall apart unless advocates raise a miraculous sum of money in about a week.

A coalition, made up of homeless advocates, religious leaders and nonprofits, wants to turn the former Apollo Adult Day Care building at 303 N. 15th St. into a one-stop-shop for homeless people in the city. The coalition needs to raise $500,000 for a down payment on the $2.5 million property by Aug. 1 to secure the purchase, or the property will go into foreclosure and the lender, Chase Bank, will auction it off. The coalition said if they don’t secure the funding, they will have to look for another property.

“It would be a big missed opportunity for the city,” Shaunn Cartwright, co-founder of the coalition and longtime homeless advocate, told, “It’s not often that you find a place where the building was made for your needs.”

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The group, led by Lighthouse Ministries and other homeless advocates, envisions providing a number of services ranging from health care and legal assistance to pet services, haircuts and a food pantry under one roof. The center would be the first in the region to host a wide range of services for the unhoused population across San Jose.

“I don’t think we’re very close to (our goal),” Lighthouse Pastor Ralph Olmos told “But I’m optimistic that some meetings in the next few days will trigger some funding.”

The facility is an ideal option, the coalition said. The building has 20 rooms and a parking lot. It requires minimal renovation, and the location is along a VTA bus line. The group said the center could be a game changer for addressing the growing homelessness crisis in Silicon Valley.

According to a 2015 county-commissioned study, Santa Clara County spent $520 million per year on homelessness services, costing the county upward of $100,000 per unhoused person.

The effort to establish a one-stop service center in San Jose comes as the region continues to grapple with its homelessness crisis. San Jose has seen its homeless population explode in the last few years, with more than 6,700 people sleeping on the streets this year. The unhoused population in the region has exceeded 10,000 people, according to the latest tally. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo called the crisis the city’s biggest failure, as city and county officials race to build more affordable and temporary housing.

The group has been eyeing the vacant building near downtown for months. Members are exploring funding possibilities from private entities and local philanthropists and hope San Jose and Santa Clara County officials could also step up. Olmos said San Jose’s Measure E—a 2020 property transfer tax that funds affordable housing and homeless services—could potentially help the coalition get closer to its goal.

“I believe that the impossible can happen, even if it comes down to the last day,” Olmos said.

Councilmember Raul Peralez, who represents the area where the building is located, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who represents the area at the county level, didn’t respond to inquiries on the efforts.

The coalition wants the facility to feature a clinic that provides insulin shots to unhoused residents and a food pantry with boxes of food for diabetic people. Nearly one in every five homeless people who died in Santa Clara County last year lost their lives because of diabetes, according to county’s data.

“This approach would directly be saving lives,” Cartwright said. “There’s nothing else like this.”

Olmos, whose church organizes free farmers markets on North 17th Street four days a week, hosted a barbeque event last week to raise awareness and fundraise for the center. Roughly 50 people came out to learn about the coalition’s efforts—including some neighbors living on North 15th Street adjacent to the building.

“There’s always gonna be some type of pushback when you bring something like this into the community,” Olmos said. “But at the barbecue, we did have a couple of residents showing up to support us.”

The initiative has also gained support from several San Jose City Council candidates, including San Jose-Evergreen Community College District trustee Omar Torres who’s running in District 3, and Santa Clara County Board of Education President Peter Ortiz who is running for the District 5 seat.

To make a donation to help the coalition, click here.

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter. 

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