Committee gives ideas on tackling homelessness

Safe parking, cleanups, rehab among recommendations

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A homeless encampment on Highway 101 at 10th Street in Gilroy, seen here earlier in 2021, has been cleared out. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

A committee tasked with finding ways to address homelessness in Gilroy gave an update on its activities to the city council on April 19.

The Homeless Ad Hoc Committee, which consists of Councilmembers Dion Bracco, Carol Marques and Fred Tovar, formed in September with the goal to support homeless service providers and address issues for both unhoused and housed residents.

Marques said the committee has been meeting twice a month, talking with various service providers, businesses, homeless people, law enforcement and others.

“We have been interviewing people, looking into other programs that we could bring to the city,” she said. “It’s been a very comprehensive study.”

The committee drafted a list of 12 recommendations for the council to consider. Among those is a safe parking program, where residents living in vehicles would have a place to park nightly while they seek permanent housing. Marques pointed to the Morgan Hill Bible Church, which allows some overnight parking by individuals in RVs, as an example.

The recommendations also include supporting various trash cleanup services, as well as exploring the purchase of a garbage compactor truck.

Marques said the committee will be meeting with an agency that has expressed interest in operating a drug rehabilitation facility in South County, adding that there could be more details to share in June.

The committee also suggests hiring a “quality of life officer,” who would work with nonprofit organizations and the police department when visiting homeless encampments.

Bracco said the committee is seeking direction from the council to continue pursuing the viability of the recommendations.

“If we’re going to do it, we really have to commit and have a serious buy-in with the council,” he said.

Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz expressed concern that five of the 12 recommendations focused on the “superficial,” or the image of the city versus solutions to prevent homelessness.

“I’m hoping we can dig our teeth in a little more,” she said. “We need to look at real, tangible things that prevent homelessness and help with housing people.”

Armendariz suggested the committee look into just cause evictions and zoning regulations to allow construction of tiny homes.

But Mayor Marie Blankley cautioned that adding too many tasks for the committee would diminish its ability to follow through effectively.

“The more things we try to pile on, the less effective we are going to be at any of them,” she said.

During the public comment period, Jan Bernstein Chargin of PitStop Outreach, an organization that provides services to the homeless, suggested the committee release its meeting agendas and minutes to the public. Marques said she supported the idea.

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