For the past few months, the issue of homelessness has been something the Milpitas City Council has attempted to address. In order to tackle the issue, Council set up the Homelessness Task Force in January of last year. This task force planned to introduce new programs in order to help the homeless in the City of Milpitas (if you would like to learn more about how the city has responded to the issue of homelessness, please read this article). On February 1, the Homelessness Task Force planned to bring their recommendations up for Council consideration. However, Council did not give much direction on the issue and the discussion was tabled for March 1.
The task force recommendations came in 5 main areas: The Homelessness Help Center, temporary housing programs, homelessness prevention programs, work and sufficiency programs, and accountability.
The Homelessness Help Center would consist of a staff person in City Hall ready to answer any questions and receive any type of community feedback either through email, a hotline, or walk-ins. The Help Center would also include a webpage with county resources as well as a new category on the MyMilpitas App to further reach unhoused residents. This Help Center would exist so that the City staff is able to increase public awareness on any resources or programs that are provided in Milpitas, as well as address any concerns that citizens may have. As for how the City will raise awareness of the Help Center itself, they plan to spread the word through community involvement programs such as resource fairs and pop-up events.
The task force has recommended 3 main Temporary Housing Programs. One of these programs includes a City-sanctioned encampment to provide safe parking areas. These encampments would include RVs, tents, showers, toilets, laundry, running water, garbage pickup, and food services. The encampments would also aim to create a transition for the unhoused into permanent living. Another one of these Temporary Housing Programs is tiny houses, as they can be created much faster and would need less funding. There would also be other temporary shelters and resource centers in Milpitas. These areas would give priority to families, working individuals, and youth getting out of the foster care system.
One of the main Prevention Programs that the task force would like implemented is the expansion of child care in Milpitas. This would come in the hope of assisting at risk residents and specifically youth through an increase in day care options. These additional options would aim to make it so that parents can go back into the workforce and therefore families can avoid falling into homelessness.
The Work and Self Sufficiency Programs can be divided into two stages: The first stage includes providing gift cards and food stamps to the unhoused who clean their encampments as well as parks, freeway entrances, and other areas. Stage two includes referring motivated candidates from stage one to the SCC work program, where they can get training in professional skills. To find support for the programs, City staff would reach out to neighborhoods, corporations, and local organizations.
There would also be a local oversight committee of around 7-9 people to oversee how the City spends on homelessness. All spending related to homelessness would need to get approval from this committee, and the committee would also review all crime reports related to homelessness. This committee overall would work to ensure that the tax dollars put toward these programs will be spent efficiently.
At the meeting, the recommendations that Mayor Rich Tran decided to support were the Homelessness Help Center, city sanctioned encampments, and preventative programs. For the city sanctioned encampments, he hoped to keep the encampments away from current residential areas, and looked to partner with the County to identify safe areas. He also voiced support for expanded daycare for in need families as well as other preventative programs. When it came to the litter pick-up, he stated that “I believe in dignity” and that he did not feel comfortable with people taking up those types of jobs.
Vice Mayor Carmen Montano chose to support the temporary housing programs as well as assessment and case management. She also proposed a day work center so that people would be able to get any necessary jobs and training skills that they needed. “We need to give them resources to help themselves. That’s how you really help them,” she stated. She also proposed a navigation center in order to help those who are sleeping in their vehicles to congregate.
Councilmember Karina Dominguez expressed gratitude for what was a “Great move for our community to really move stuff forward.” She proposed that she would like for the Council to consider providing dumpsters in order to help with sanitation, and that she agreed that litter pick-up should not be moved forward.
In response to the proposal of dumpsters, Mayor Tran responded that much of the buildup of litter accrued on Caltrans property and litter pick-up should depend on the property owner. He thus respectfully declined, as he expressed that Milpitas could not afford to pay for the cleanup of private property.
However, Councilmember Anthony Phan responded by voicing his concern over commercial property owners illegally dumping on property, saying that the issue would continue without any solutions in place. He also stated that these dumpsters did not need to be funded by the City itself, but instead the Milpitas City staff could look toward other funding avenues. Phan also emphasized the need for clean showers and mentioned that “sanitation is a huge concern” for many unhoused residents.
For the future, Tran has stated that he plans to set up a meeting in order to provide City funding for the possible City dumpsters. It is also highly likely that many of these recommendations will move forward and will continue to be supported by the Council.