Fake San Jose police notice highlights tension in homeless camps
A fake police notice distributed at a homeless camp in southern San Jose has escalated tensions between homeless people and neighboring landlords.
Notices emerged late Saturday night that said the San Jose Police Department would clean up the area the next morning. The letters warned residents to pick up their belongings and leave.
“You are in violation and will be liable to criminal prosecution if you stay,” said a review reviewed by San José Spotlight.
A spokesperson for the SJPD confirmed that the department had not issued the advisories and that the threat of a search never occurred.
It is not known who distributed the notices at the camp, located near the intersection of the Monterey Freeway and Branham Lane. But the incident is just the latest flashpoint in an increasingly tense conflict between homeless residents of the camp and residents of a neighboring landlord association.
“Everyone wants him to disappear,” said Jim Ramos, board member of the Deer Run II HOA. “We are at a breaking point. “
With a growing population of homeless residents, San José is struggling to find a coherent strategy for dealing with the encampments. The city has refused to sanction the encampments and has participated in at least 97 camp cuts – also known as sweeps – since October 2020, but the homeless are content to move elsewhere. San Jose is also closing its temporary COVID-19 shelters, which advocates say pushes more people onto the streets.
Ramos, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2001, told the San José Spotlight that the HOA did not sanction or distribute the flyers. But he noted that the arrival of the camp about five years ago made life horrible for the owners. He said people entered the residential complex to steal, defecate in nearby bushes, scream and fight around the clock. The locals are fed up, he said.
“We have had homeowners who have threatened to take action themselves,” he said. “This guy I know has guns. He emailed (saying), “I’ll take matters into my own hands.”
For the dozen people living in tents, the fact that neighboring owners want them to leave is no surprise. Several people who spoke with San José Spotlight believed the review was from a neighboring landlord.
While the residents of the encampment are not too concerned about the notice, they are concerned about the growing hostility from their housed neighbors.
Frances Powell told the San José Spotlight that it was difficult to find privacy in the camp because the owners regularly record them. She said it was not fair that someone posted false posters in the camp.
“For someone like me, it’s stressful,” she said. “And it’s difficult because I would have to move my tent, it’s my whole life there.”
Alex, a disabled resident who has lived in the camp for three years, said he joined the camp after the SJPD impounded the motorhome he was living in. He declined to provide a last name due to privacy concerns.
“My girlfriend and I are having a hard time,” Alex said. “We can’t go anywhere without being harassed. It is therefore our last campsite. Everyone gets along here, people show respect.
Gail Osmer, a homeless advocate who is familiar with the camp, said if residents keep the site clean, she doesn’t see why they can’t be left alone.
“Unfortunately, they have nowhere to go,” Osmer said.
Council member Matt Mahan told the San José Spotlight that he has visited the encampment on several occasions and is struggling to find solutions to the myriad of problems created by its existence.
For example, municipal workers perform weekly camp cleanings. Mahan said he wanted to deliver a dumpster to the site to help residents manage their waste, but learned the city would not be able to fix it.
Jane Iverson, CEO of Deer Run II HOA, says some homeless people defecate in public and steal water from owners. She stressed that the residents of the camp do not have access to basic services. Mahan said he was advocating for porta pots and handwashing stations in the encampments, but so far none have materialized at the one near Monterey and Branham.
HomeFirst, a homeless housing provider in Santa Clara County, has tried to connect camp residents to shelters, but beds are in high demand, Mahan said. Additionally, shelters limit the number of items that can be brought in, and some people are reluctant to give up their belongings in exchange for a few nights indoors.
“My frustration … is that the way we are approaching the problem today just doesn’t address the scale of the problem,” Mahan said.
In the absence of an immediate solution, even direct communication between the camp and residents housed nearby is difficult. Iverson said his interactions with the camp were limited to yelling at intruders and throwing trash over the wall people at the camp throw into the housing complex. She scoffed when asked to speak directly to residents.
“Are we calling the police for an escort?” ” She said.
Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @ EliWolfe4 on Twitter.