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NewsCommunityHope for the Unhoused hosts first Community Homeless Conference

Hope for the Unhoused hosts first Community Homeless Conference

On Friday, April 14, at the San Jose City College Extension (1450 Escuela Pkwy), Milpitas nonprofit Hope for the Unhoused held its inaugural Community Homeless Conference.

The event, according to organization President Rob Jung, was held with the goal of educating the community on the challenge of homelessness within both the city and Santa Clara County on the whole. “It is a growing issue,” said Jung in an interview with The Beat, “and as many people will tell you, it’s becoming the number one issue across the state…”

Jung cited inflation as a major contributing factor to homelessness, as well as a jobs market that is less stable than it used to be. He also highlighted a decades-long underinvestment in low-income housing, saying, “The problem has come home to roost.”

Jung then pointed to rising numbers of unhoused people among the senior (ages 60 and above) population, sharing one recent case of a 72-year-old woman with dementia who was literally dropped off in Milpitas with no support system. “She has social security,” Jung explained. But: “It’s definitely not enough when you have rents at $2,800 or even $2,000 and social security is about $2,000 [a month]; you can’t afford anything in the area.”

During COVID times, rents were relieved temporarily, but as the world opened up, rents shot back up. 

Louvilla Weathington, a volunteer with Hope for the Unhoused, goes out to distribute needed items and food to Milpitas’ homeless residents: “We provide whatever they need, like tents, like socks,” Weathington said to The Beat.

Volunteers first make the rounds to ask the residents what they’re in need of, then later make follow-up trips to provide the requested items. The volunteers go out on Mondays and Fridays, and every other Saturday. Weathington noted that at every encampment she visits, she hears stories of unhoused residents being told to leave by the authorities.

From a solutions standpoint, Jung said that actual housing is the foundation – as in when you get folks housed, it has a stabilizing effect that supports their overall lives in many ways. However, knowing that it can take years to house people, Jung notes that Hope for the Unhoused supports a “dual pathway,” meaning that temporary housing and other supportive services function as desirable first-wave solutions when permanent housing proves to be more elusive.

A string of guest speakers took to the podium at the event, among them State Assemblymember Alex Lee and County Supervisor Otto Lee…

Said Assemblyman Alex Lee, “There’s no one silver bullet or panacea…” when it comes to solving homelessness. Lee made a point of emphasizing non-government organizations’ participation in offering solutions: “You need to have community organizations on the ground to support the work you’re doing. ‘Cause without that layer of community involvement, it’s so, so difficult.” 

He added that folks operating at the City, County, and other official levels try their best, but that the local organizational level is critical for numerous reasons, among them that organizational players are better positioned to build a sense of trust among the unhoused population.

Supervisor Otto Lee contextualized some of his thoughts on the issue within a personal story from his time spent serving in Iraq: “When I was living in Iraq in 2009, serving in the military, I lived in a converted shipping container…”

He noted how the converted space wasn’t just a place to live in, but also a secure and safe place for his belongings.

“Not having that safe and secure place for your things, creates additional stress for the unhoused. Especially with violence, with theft, and loss of personal items – because that’s really all they have,” Lee shared with the audience. 

Asked what the organization’s work means to him personally, Rob Jung had this to say: “This is important to me from the perspective of community…I really think it’s a community issue. So I think it’s important that the community come together and solve it.”

Learn more about Hope for the Unhoused here.



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Eric Shapiro
Eric Shapiro
Eric Shapiro is a writer & filmmaker. As a screenwriter, he’s won a Fade In Award and written numerous feature films in development by companies including WWE, Mandalay Sports Media, Game1, and Select Films. He is also the resident script doctor for Rebel Six Films (producers of A&E’s “Hoarders”). As a journalist, Eric’s won a California Journalism Award and is co-owner and editor of The Milpitas Beat, a Silicon Valley newspaper with tens of thousands of monthly readers that has won the Golden Quill Award as well as the John Swett Award for Media Excellence. As a filmmaker, Eric’s directed award-winning feature films that have premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival, Fantastic Fest, and Shriekfest, and been endorsed by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Eric’s apocalyptic novella “It’s Only Temporary” appears next to Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” on Nightmare Magazine’s list of the 100 Best Horror Novels of All Time. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Rhoda, and their two sons.

4 COMMENTS

  1. “So I think it’s important that the community come together and solve it.” In other words, give us more tax money so we can provide more free housing to those too lazy to work without really solving the problem. There are those who really need help, but the vast majority would rather live off handouts.
    “Even if you were to do everything possible to eliminate mental illness, you’d really only be addressing around 3% of the violence in this country,” said Dr. Reena Kapoor, professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.

    https://www.today.com/health/health/mental-illness-gun-violence-us-research-says-rcna30833

    • Donald, can you explain how you came to believe that “There are those who really need help, but the vast majority would rather live off handouts”? Please provide a link to the study that confirms such an absurd, disconnected-from-reality statement as that. You’ve been watching too much Fox (so-called) News and that Russian shill Tucker Carlson.

  2. Here are some notes I took during the event.
    .
    First and foremost, the unhoused problem is getting worse! Think of the bathtub metaphor where 2 gallons per minute are being poured into the tub, while only 1 gallon per minute is being drained. Even if all solutions discussed at the conference were in effect and draining the tub, we would still have an ever-growing pool of unhoused people — and the fastest growing unhoused population is seniors.
    .
    While our Assembly member Alex Lee said that structural overhaul is needed, such fundamental change was not discussed during the conference. He noted that preserving affordable housing was key to solving the problem, and spoke of the importance of preserving Sunnyhills Apartments. His social housing bill (AB 309), however, is an internationally proven solution to the problem that represents a real structural change.
    .
    While our County Supervisor, Otto Lee, focused on bolstering our mental health services, an audience member pointed out that universal health care coverage would not only include mental and dental care, it would reduce one of the main reasons people become homeless in the first place; someone in the family got sick which crushed their already weak financial base. Because other developed countries have universal healthcare, their residents never have this problem.
    .
    While Destination Home offered ways to support the already homeless, their #1 strategy — to address root causes of homelessness — was surprisingly weak. Perhaps their corporate donors did not want to talk about the effect on housing prices of outside investors (both from Wall Street and other countries) or the opportunities in social housing. Nor did they mention the $50T ($50,000B) of wealth transferred from America’s middle class to the morbidly rich under Reaganism/neo-liberalism/trickle-down economics. We did not have a homeless problem of any significance before Reagan and the Republicans changed our tax and subsidy laws. Clearly, our capitalist system has not produced adequate housing.
    .
    While I applaud the work of Hope for the Unhoused which supports the already unhoused, until we address the root causes of homelessness, the problem will continue to worsen.

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