By Devin Fehely

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — A homeless encampment along a San Jose freeway on-ramp that was swept away in February has sprung up again larger than ever, with homeowners just on the other side of a wall fearing for their safety.

The encampment is on Caltrans property off of Story Rd. next to U.S. Highway 101 just south of Interstate Highway 280.

It appears to be growing by the day and it’s estimated there are more than 200 people living at the site, right next to a mobile home community. Residents say they are fed up with the trash, drugs and fear of fires that could spark at any time.

Like so many disputes between neighbors, how you feel about who’s right or who’s wrong has an awful lot to do with the side of the fence you’re on. People living in the mobile home community on the other side of a wall complain about loud, late-night music, syringes tossed over the fence into their backyards, and cooking fires that spread to the treetops and nearly to their homes.

“There was a guy trying to climb over the wall,” said homeowner Leticia Bracamontes. “I got scared and yelled at him, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’”

Homeless people say they have nowhere to turn and have found themselves in this dusty, dirty dead end for those who’ve run out of money and options.

“We shouldn’t be here,” said homeless man Angel Zamudio. “There should be other options. But there’s only so many places we can go when they’re throwing us out everywhere.”

San Jose Councilman Tam Nguyen today urged Caltrans to the clear the homeless out from its property. But advocates say that’s a short-term solution.

“The myth is that the homeless choose to be on the street,” said homeless advocate, Pastor Scott Wagers. “But really what choice do they have? A tent, an overpass or a box. There’s really not a myriad of choices.”

So for now, these unlikely neighbors are forced to co-exist, each on the other side of the wall that separates them.

San Jose is planning to build a tiny home encampment in the same neighborhood where this homeless encampment exists. Councilman Nguyen said he believes a city-sanctioned encampment would be cleaner, more orderly and pose less of a risk to nearby neighborhoods.

 

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