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April 17, 2021

Guest View, Dion Bracco and Carol Marques: Addressing homelessness

There was an opinion piece in the March 19 Dispatch that led the reader to believe that the Gilroy City Council is ignoring a plan that could end homelessness. That is a misleading statement.

What the opinion leaves out is that the Gilroy City Council has an ad hoc committee working on Gilroy’s homeless issue. For the past three months, we have received input from the homeless, Compassion Center, St. Joseph’s, Salvation Army, Santa Clara County, PitStop Outreach, Gilroy business owners, Gilroy homeowners, police, clergy, Morgan Hill’s housing director, Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, Assemblyman Robert Rivas and Destination: Home. We are in the final stages of putting all the information together for a study session where we will provide recommendations to the City Council.

We disagree with our fellow council member who stated, “We do know the right policies and programs to end homelessness.” If anyone had the answers to end homelessness, the issue would have been solved years ago. Ray Bramson, from Destination: Home, readily admits that for every one homeless person housed, three more appear.

So, what do we do? Our sub-committee is under no impression that we are going to end homelessness but we are trying to make a difference. Our goal is to help the women, children and veterans with our limited resources. 

Make no mistake, affordable housing does not end homelessness. For extremely low income housing, a person has to make an annual salary of $43,900-plus and have three months of rent in order to qualify. Also, after a certain number of years, the rent increases while the government subsidy decreases putting these people at risk for becoming homeless once again. 

Safe Parking and tiny houses are considered transitional housing because there is a time limit for how long people can stay. The people living in one of these do not have a free ride. They are expected to either have a job or be looking for one, or attending job training. They are required to do chores and volunteer in order to remain in these types of communities. No smoking, drinking or drugs are allowed. If the rules are broken, they are asked to leave because these are meant to be safe environments.

We met with Assemblyman Rivas and expressed the need for the state to start addressing the problem of mental illness and drug/alcohol addiction by opening up mental facilities to help the homeless return to society and get back on their feet. For the citizens who cannot live and care for themselves, supportive housing services must be provided. This would include housing, nutrition and other services such as medical, mental and drug counseling support. All of this takes money.

On another note, our council member made another statement that needs addressing. He stated that “It’s not a fair playing game when a potential business that knows a council member can get special attention, while those that don’t have any connections are subject to delays.” This is absolutely not true. The council member who made this statement should name that council member and the staff who he is talking about so it can be addressed. It is not fair to throw out accusations publically without facts backing it.   

Together we will meet these challenges. Gilroy Strong!

Dion Bracco and Carol Marques are members of the Gilroy City Council.

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