San José’s largest homeless emergency shelter closed
South Hall, one of San Jose’s largest COVID-19 temporary shelters, closed on Thursday. While the city has pledged it will help find shelter for all of its residents through a nonprofit partner, homeless advocates say some people are unlucky when it comes to housing .
“Some people have gone to mini-homes,” homeless advocate Shaunn Cartwright told the San José Spotlight. She alleges that around 50 homeless residents still have no place to live.
Cartwright said 40 other residents left the temporary shelter in frustration.
“For people who haven’t, they are just transferred to another shelter,” she said. “For a lot of them, they’ve been at South Hall for over a year now. And now you mix personalities, you mix territories, you mix a lot.
The city’s housing department has partnered with homeless service provider HomeFirst to coordinate and manage the South Hall temporary shelter. HomeFirst has several homeless shelters in Santa Clara County, including the Boccardo Reception Center – the largest such shelter in the county – the Sunnyvale Family Shelter and various small houses.
HomeFirst did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Since opening in April 2020, South Hall has housed around 200 adults on most nights. Residents received boxed meals and had access to showers and on-site hygiene facilities. Santa Clara County has also offered COVID-19 vaccines to anyone staying at South Hall, although they haven’t made everyone take it.
One of those adults, former cook Melvin Cuc, stayed at South Hall from December through March. He said he enjoyed the services there, despite the drug use he witnessed, but left after being attacked in the bathroom earlier this year. Management referred him to another shelter in Sunnyvale, but Cuc said he was too traumatized by his experience at South Hall to live in another shelter. He now lives in a local park.
“It was scary sometimes,” Cuc told the San José Spotlight. “I couldn’t stay in a shelter anymore and decided to stay (on) the street.”
Cuc said management told him he qualified for a small house, but said he was still waiting to be placed in one. He learned of the recent closure of South Hall from Cartwright.
“It’s sad,” Cuc said of the shelter’s closure. “You have a place where you can clean up and it makes it easier to find a job because you have an address and information. But now there are no more services… It will be difficult times for (the residents). I feel for them.
San Jose has used South Hall as part of its multi-pronged COVID-19 homeless response, including a similar shelter for families at the Camden Community Center in South San Jose. In homeless settlements, the city has placed hand basins and portable toilets and organized garbage collection days.
Cartwright said she was concerned that the homeless residents of South Hall – some of whom are not fully vaccinated – could cause an outbreak of COVID-19 if they mix with residents of other shelters.
Jeff Scott, spokesperson for the city’s housing department, previously told the San José Spotlight that future housing plans for people staying at South Hall will be determined by an assessment from HomeFirst and the city, with input from residents themselves. Several housing and shelter options may be available to people depending on their circumstances, including motel vouchers, interim or interim housing, permanent supportive housing, rapid relocation, shelters throughout Santa Clara County and ad hoc financial assistance.
South Hall will revert to its pre-pandemic use of hosting convention-related events. From September 24 to November 14, the Congress Hall will host “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience”, a three-dimensional art exhibition on the most popular works of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh.
Cartwright said moving residents of the shelter was not worth the income from the art exhibit.
“There aren’t enough places for people to be like this. It was another emergency shelter, ”Cartwright said. “Nobody cares about homeless people. It’s just collateral damage for other decisions that make more money. Roaming is good business. But it’s not as good a deal for San José as the conventions.
Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.