SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Dozens of homeless encampments that have exploded in size since the pandemic began could soon be cleared out in San Jose and relocated on public-owned property.

“Our unhoused population was already huge, and then it became much larger during the pandemic,” said Shaunn Cartwright of the Stop Death Coalition. “You would see people arriving in cars, new families and not knowing where to go and who to talk to.”

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City council members discussed whether to remove the 220 encampments that have been identified throughout the city, and relocate them on city-sanctioned land, which would be the first ever for San Jose, if approved. A location hasn’t yet been identified.

City workers largely suspended encampment removals last March because of the pandemic. Now, as COVID-19 vaccinations ramp up, city leaders are talking about when and how to resume encampment abatements.

“I just want to make sure that our students have a safe path back and forth from schools, that it’s unobstructed and free of anything that might harm them,” said resident Andres Quintero during public comment.

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Mayor Sam Liccardo pushed for removal of encampments near schools and daycare centers after substantive outreach. Meanwhile, Councilmembers David Cohen and Pam Foley, said that abatement should be the very last resort unless the encampment poses a risk to the environment or impede a right-of-way.

“I definitely disagree with doing anything on city-owned property,” Cartwright said.

The homeless advocate believes if the city moves forward with the plan it would cause more problems then help.

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“You could end up having somebody that’s been abused with their abuser, you have Nortenos with Surenos, you just don’t mix neighborhoods,” said Cartwright.