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One San Jose tiny home shelter is successfully moving people to housing. Can it be a model for other sites?

Ethan Varian, The Mercury News on

Published in Business News

San Jose, California, more than any other Bay Area city, has embraced tiny homes as a solution to homelessness.

Since 2020, the city has developed six tiny home sites with around 500 beds. Three upcoming locations will add more than 700 new beds. The facilities provide rent-free private units, some with individual bathrooms, as well as shared kitchens and even community gardens.

But people aren’t meant to stay forever. The goal is to help them move to permanent housing, generally in about six to nine months. As the city faces a severe affordable housing shortage, however, not everyone finds lasting homes.

According to city data, only about half of the roughly 1,380 residents who’ve moved through the “interim housing” sites over the past three-plus years have transitioned to permanent housing, and results varied widely between sites.

One tiny home site for families with children on Evans Lane in South San Jose is outperforming the rest, with nearly eight in 10 residents finding housing upon leaving. As San Jose pushes to build tiny homes to bring more of its estimated 4,400 unsheltered residents off the street, what can the city learn from Evans Lane?

Local officials attribute the site’s success to a collaboration between San Jose and Santa Clara County to offer services that create a clear pathway to housing. Unlike other tiny home shelters, Evans Lane residents have access to a countywide program that connects homeless families with federal housing vouchers, rental assistance and help finding low-income apartments.

 

“The reason why that site is doing better than others is because we have had more resources for families,” said Consuelo Hernandez, director of Santa Clara County’s Office of Supportive Housing, which oversees the program.

On a recent afternoon at Evans Lane, the squeals of children pushing scooters and skateboards along the path between the 48 boxy tiny homes pierced the whooshing hum of the neighboring Almaden Expressway. One resident sat at a picnic table in the community courtyard, recalling nights when she and her now teenage son and daughter were left with nowhere to go but the city’s parks.

“For me to see how comfortable they are now and how good they are resting — they shower, I make sure they do chores, it makes me feel good,” the woman said. “Because I know that they have nothing to worry about today.”

The family moved into Evans Lane about eight months ago after a stay at a sober living facility. Working with a case manager provided by the site’s nonprofit operator, the woman said she finally has enough stability and support to find a steady job and an affordable apartment.

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