June 1, 2020
Sam Liccardo, Mayor
Dev Davis, Councilmember District 6 David Sykes, City Manager
City of San Jose
200 E Santa Clara Street
San Jose CA 95113
The Manager’s budget proposal indicates the intent to continue operating the Bascom Overnight Warming Location (OWL) on a full-time 24/7 basis through calendar year-end. We strongly object to this and demand exploration of other options that reflect an equitable balance in budget cuts. We realize that we our community will not be made whole in a post pandemic budget; we simply ask that the sacrifice be shared rather than compounded.
The City cannot simply continue to deprive an underserved neighborhood of equitable service delivery under the guise of “the greater good” while continuing to break promises made to the community. We have been cooperative and supportive, but the time has come to say “STOP.”
We are requesting two things:
Move Bascom OWL clients to other sites: motel rooms, congregate housing, or supportive housing. Transport daily if needed. Redistribute staff where they can be of greater use.
Reinstate programming of the Bascom Library and Community Center in equal measure with all other community centers and libraries. Reinstate the summer program deposits made by community members and serve them at our facility.
The Bascom site was developed for surrounding neighborhoods as part of the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative (SNI). Data showed we suffered from historic lack of services and neglect. Data also showed high crime rates, gangs recruiting our youth, and high levels of blight. We had no access to parks, recreation, community centers, or libraries. Our large supply of multi-family dwellings provided housing often referred to as naturally occurring low-income housing because of rent control and, frankly, lack of upkeep. Data showed then and now neighborhoods made up of low-income families, first-generation immigrants, mono- lingual non-English, seniors, students and first-time home buyers. The SNI promise was restorative justice for the previous municipal neglect; that promise has not been realized.
The Bascom site was among the last to be built or come online as it was “bumped” several times down the priority list. We watched as other neighborhoods saw their new, rehabilitated, or expanded facilities constructed. This was all for the “greater good” of the city as a whole with the promise we would receive equal funding for services once we had actual buildings. However, once constructed, Bascom sat vacant for years, ensuring services could be maintained elsewhere. Promises of equitable funding and services were made; the promises were not honored.
Bascom has a history of being used for programmatic swing space to our detriment. When Grace Center needed extensive health and safety work, our center housed that program over local programs.
We have always shared space with our unhoused neighbors, even when it wasn’t comfortable. Our proximity to medical and social county services, combined with large homeless populations along adjacent freeways, has created an impact not seen in other community centers and libraries.
When the OWL program was brought to us, it was already approved as part of the City’s budget. We asked only that the original program not turn into permanent housing for homeless or substantially diminish our use of the facility. Members of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) were promised by City staff that the program was temporary and would not be full time. The promise to ensure the OWL program remain a part-time temporary program was not honored.
Programming at both the library and community center were reduced almost immediately. We lost hours of access, classes, courses and winter camps that working families depended on. Use of restrooms, the ability to hold community meetings, and hours of access were reduced or eliminated. Based on data provided, our community did not migrate to other facilities. The promise made to minimize impact on facility users was not honored.
Current and Proposed OWL
The original program for overnight shelter was approximately $500,000 to provide beds for 30 people. The OWL program converted to a full-time operation in March 2020. To comply with Public Health guidelines, the “decompression” of space moved OWL clients from a community room to the gym. The current OWL clients represent a total of 22 people, only 9 of whom are generally on site during the day. Referrals are no longer processed on site or through the county. During the entire program, only two people (already in the system) have obtained housing even though that was a stated goal.
Supervision of the current clients requires a minimum of two people per shift plus security. The current and proposed program represents three times the original staffing to supervise about two-thirds the number of original clients. We have never seen the budget for this scenario. This budget does not include transportation of food and supplies, administrative or supervision staff, benefits, etc. This is not a site that provides programming, counselling, training, medical service, social service contact, or any other supportive measures.
Community’s Budget Response
Decommission the Bascom OWL. The clients of the OWL can be transferred to other facilities. Public Health guidelines will not allow for full-time housing for homeless and joint use of the facility with residents. Transfer staff to other sites. Spend taxpayer money more effectively and serve more of the target client base more effectively.
Prioritize Bascom Library and Community Center when reinstating programming. This facility is needed more than ever in an area that suffers greatly from the post-pandemic recession. This facility suffered pre-pandemic from reduced programming because of the OWL. Mitigate the cost our neighborhoods have already paid in service to the greater community. Acknowledge that the neighborhoods not only bore an unequal burden, we embraced our unhoused neighbors and developed support for them.
We know the easiest thing would be to eliminate services at Bascom, spread the budget across other libraries and community centers, and continue operating the OWL. We also know that budgets are based on fees collected, use levels, how many books are checked out, and other measurable indicators. We now have no history of use; by the end of the year we will have almost 18 months of zero use by the community. None of this is because of lack of interest, it is deliberate lack of access. There are no data to support the idea that our community migrated to other sites for services and programs; we were simply excluded from access.
Our community should not bear an unshared burden to house the homeless. Our community should not bear the undue burden of maintaining services in other neighborhoods while we do without during lean budget periods.
Randi Kinman, President
Vice Mayor Chappie Jones Councilmember District 1
Sergio Jimenez, Councilmember District 2
Raul Peralez, Councilmember District 3
Lan Diep, Councilmember District 4
Magdalena Carrasco, Councilmember District 5
Maya Esparza, Councilmember District 7
Sylvia Arenas, Councilmember District 8
Pam Foley, Councilmember District 9
Johnny Khamis, Councilmember District 10
Supervisor Susan Ellenberg, County of Santa Clara District 4 Buena Vista Neighborhood Association
Burbank Neighborhood Association
Burbank/Del Monte Neighborhood Advisory Committee Downing-Thornton Neighborhood
District 6 Neighborhood Leadership Group