SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – A renegade movement by local activists is underway in San Jose to simultaneously build emergency shelters, and call out the city leaders for “failures” in providing adequate housing for the homeless.
Three unauthorized “weather shelters” have been erected at an undisclosed location on public property, by volunteers with Feed the Block, local activists based in San Jose.
“They are not tiny homes. They’re essentially an insulated shed that is designed to provide shelter from the weather, as well as security, and just a little bit more stable environment for those living out here,” said Jesi, of the group’s leaders.
The weather shelters measure 8 feet by 12 feet, and do not have plumbing, electricity, or a poured concrete foundation. Walls are framed, insulated, and covered with plywood, and sit atop wooden cinder blocks.
The small crawlspace underneath is covered with chicken wire to prevent rodent infestations. Each unit will have a pitched and shingled roof, and features two narrow windows, and a door with a deadbolt.
“We’re really out here doing this because of the city’s failure to provide housing for people,” Jesi told KPIX 5.
In February 2020, the city launched its first Tiny Homes project to much fanfare, with 40 units erected near the Berryessa BART station in north San Jose. Since then, the city has built a total of five sites, providing interim housing to more than 400 formerly unhoused individuals, according Jeff Scott, Public Information Manager, with San Jose’s housing department. A sixth site will be considered by the City Council later this month.
“The city has its own tiny home project but they haven’t built even close to enough tiny homes, to be able to accommodate people. So this is really a stopgap measure. This is definitely not an ideal situation for anybody,” said Jesi.
Feed the Block’s current effort will be done in two weeks, after flooring, roofing, and painting are completed by a rotating roster of volunteers. Cost of materials is about $3500 per unit, raised primarily through private donations on the group’s Instagram account.
Will more weather shelters be built in the future?
“Expect as many as we can get funding for, and get away with,” said Jesi. “If/when the city comes out and tries to take them down, we will try and protect these shelters. Our message to the city of San Jose is if you don’t want this here, if you want to take this down, then do better! Then provide actual housing for people, and then measures like this won’t have to be taken anymore.”
Scott released a statement that said in part: “All of our interim housing communities go through a comprehensive inspection process before they are given certificates of occupancy. The City takes safety very seriously. All structures used for human habitation in the City must comply with our building codes and fire safety regulations.”