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San Jose’s Homeless Depending On Storage Lockers For Shelter, Survival

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Pensioner Bill Francis cleans out his storage locker at Central Storage in San Jose. (CBS)

Pensioner Bill Francis cleans out his storage locker at Central Storage in San Jose. (CBS)

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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — A storage locker at Central Storage in downtown San Jose is the closest thing some people have to a home.

Rules for storage facilities are strict – no overnight stays, no dumping trash and the doors must stay open while you’re in them. We found Bill Francis cleaning out his five by ten foot unit. Francis lives off social security, and a small pension from IBM. His unit costs him $98 a month, and comes with a light bulb he uses to charge his cell phone.

“Everybody’s trying to survive, no matter where they are,” Francis said.

Nearby, Nick Martinez was stopping by his five-by-six foot unit. It costs him $64 a month. Martinez survives on $825-a month in disability, and spends his nights sleeping in his van.

We asked, is there temptation to stay overnight?

“I’ll tell you what, people have done it before,” said Martinez.

Another man, who didn’t want to be identified, has hung out in his 100-square foot for the last seven years.

“The stress is on you every night. Where you gonna stay, you know? It’s kind of scary. It’s survival,” he said.

Homeless people spending their time in storage units are something city officials and caregivers have heard of, but hadn’t really seen until now.

San Jose’s code enforcement unit says they’ve received no complaints about people hanging out at the units, and as long as nobody is sleeping, or cooking in them they aren’t breaking any laws.

But, homeless projects manager Ray Bramson says the isolation is unhealthy.

“We want them to be in strong, resource-rich environments where they can get the help they need. The idea that people aren’t being connected to services, regardless of where they are in the community is not something that we want to support,” Bramson said.

Central Storage says they don’t discriminate against anyone abiding by the rules of the facility. They don’t plan to take any actions unless overnight stays or other violations become a problem. People at a nearby nursery say the regulars are courteous and friendly.

KPIX 5 has learned that Central Storage is not alone, several other South Bay facilities are seeing people using storage facilities as a temporary shelter.

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