San Jose begins closing down 68-acre homeless encampment

San Jose begins closing 68-acre homeless camp known as the Jungle for good

San Jose on Thursday is shutting down a sprawling homeless encampment, known as the Jungle, that has become a major embarrassment to the city.

Hundreds of homeless people turned 68 acres along Coyote Creek into a shantytown with lean-tos and underground bunkers, even a treehouse. The Jungle had become a symbol of Silicon Valley's rampant homeless problem, and officials decided to close it down for good.

Among big cities in the U.S., San Jose and Santa Clara County have the largest percentage of unsheltered homeless. The majority of the about 7,600 homeless sleep under freeway embankments, in parks and on sidewalks.  

"The city really made a good-faith effort" in relocating those living in the camp, said Claire Wagner of HomeFirst, which runs a San Jose homeless shelter.

Officials spent $4 million to relocate people and connect them with help. Nearly 150 had found housing, but over 50 had yet to find a place to live.

"If you have 10 applications to choose from, nine with stable rental histories and work, and you have somebody living in a creek; what are you going to do?" said Jennifer Loving, executive director of Destination Home, a public-private partnership to end homelessness in Santa Clara County.

Silicon Valley has become less and less affordable.

The average apartment rent within 10 miles of San Jose was $2,633 in September, $1,761 more than in September 2012.  And the median home price is nearly $700,000. 

Inhabitant Doug Wynne created a complex of tents furnished with a rug, couch and beds. A brick path led to his front porch.

"It's much nicer than the dirt out there," he told the Los Angeles Times.

Twitter: @geholland@ronlin


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