by Devin Fehely

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — On Saturday, more than 150 volunteers picked up trash along the banks of Coyote Creek in San Jose in an area once known as “The Jungle,” a sprawling, trash-strewn homeless encampment where hundreds lived in squalor and hopelessness before it was shut down four years ago.

“The primary source of trash in our creeks is from people living there and we can’t continue as a city to have people living in our creeks,” said mayor Sam Liccardo. “That’s why I pushed to put Measure V on the ballot — to provide for the dollars we need to get the homeless out of our creeks, out of our parks and off the streets.”

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Measure V would provide $450 million for affordable housing for the homeless and low-income families in San Jose.

After The Jungle was shut down, city leaders vowed to never again allow that concentration of poverty to exist in one location. Yet smaller, scattered encampments have sprung up.

“It makes me very sad for the simple fact that these people don’t have a place to go,” observed Downtown Streets team volunteer Jay Jay Jones. “[The homeless] want to be near water so they can use it to clean themselves or even to drink.”

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Volunteers cleaned up around the encampments without dismantling them or displacing the people living there.

The long-term plan for the area is to convert it into a public park, with hiking and biking trails.

As a first step, Mayor Liccardo says the police department will increase patrols in the area in coming months.

“We’re now in a position where we can re-deploy officers in areas where we had to pull back from before and one of those areas is along the creeks,” the mayor said. “We know that’s a dangerous situation — especially when you have encampments down there. So, starting in October, we’ll be re-deploying our officers down into the creeks.”

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The organizers of Saturday’s cleanup said it was never intended to be a one-and-done event. Going forward, they have cleanups scheduled monthly along different areas of the creek.