(CBS SF) — While walking into what’s known as “The Jungle,” the sights, sounds and smells of what is reportedly the largest homeless encampment in the country make it hard to believe it’s in the heart of Silicon Valley.
The City of San Jose has a new plan to put boulders to block access to the nearby parking lot. But the city says it’s to prevent cars from coming to dump tons of debris there, according to San Jose Councilmember Sam Liccardo.
“The idea is that as we’re moving people into housing, we want to be closing down parts of this to ensure that no one’s going back,” Liccardo said. “This has been a very sad chapter in San Jose’s history and we need closure on it.”
The city also plans to erect a taller fence on the Eastern side. Right now, there’s a 9-foot fence, but it only goes part way down.
It’s unclear how much of the garbage is coming from the cars, and how much is making its way up from piles of festering, rotten debris in camp itself.
Whatever the case, Sandy Perry, with the Community Homeless Alliance Ministries, says blocking access to The Jungle is a bad idea.
“It’s really going to prevent a lot of ministries and the people who volunteer and come here to serve people, pray with people to provide spiritual and material support — they’re trying to separate them,” Perry said.
Robert Rodriguez has been homeless for 12 years, and sleeps in his car in The Jungle’s parking lot. When it shuts down, he says he’ll have no where to go.
“Where do we go when they move people out?” he said.
Councilmember Licardo wants the city to work with the ministries to determine a solution.
“It’s not a solution to continue to provide food while people are living in the encampment,” Licardo said. “That’s just an approach to keep people homeless. Our approach is to end homelessness.”
On Monday, San Jose’s homeless coordinator says a work crew will spend the next few hours cleaning up parts of the encampment. Meanwhile, San Jose is making a push to shut down the camp by October.