Apple has spent millions to pull dozens of people out of homelessness. Here’s how it went

SAN JASE, Calif. – When Apple wanted to clean up a large homeless camp last year, the tech giant didn’t just remove everyone from the site – it spent millions of dollars to give dozens of people a motel stay for nine months and help them find housing.

This nine-month delay at the motel ended last Monday, and although the efforts of a wealthy technology company helped permanently accommodate eight people, more than three times as many as many still expected accommodation a few days before the deadline.

The situation, which has caused many residents to worry about where they will go when the clock ends, underscores how difficult it is to pull people out of homelessness in the Gulf region – even for one of the most valuable companies in the world.

The program, which is funded by Apple, has faced a number of obstacles across the region: finding it difficult to find affordable housing, gaining the trust of people who have spent years living on the streets, overcoming arrests, addictions and other obstacles, and meeting their medical , mental and other complex needs.

Experience shows why – even if voters consistently consider homelessness a problem № 1 in the Gulf area, Gov. Gavin Newsom has cleared cities for the homeless in California top priorityand the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a flow of new federal and state funding – camps continue to stand in the streets. More than 6,700 people According to data released this month, live without homes only in San Jose – 11% more than in 2019. In the counties of Santa Clara, Alameda, San Mateo and Contra Costa, the number of homeless is growing.

“We know [the motel] for some, the program worked quite effectively, while others took longer, ”said Lori Smith, chief marketing and communications director at HomeFirst, a nonprofit that runs the Apple-funded program, in an email. “Everyone has their own way to homelessness, and everyone will have their own way – and rarely will they look the same.”

Apple declined to comment specifically on the program, but said: “We are working with partners across the state to support at-risk groups and provide new available units.”

What began with the fact that several vans parked on the side of the wasteland owned by Apple on Component Drive in San Jose grew during the COVID pandemic into a large camp with dozens of people, vehicles, makeshift structures and garbage.

The company, which in 2019 promised $ 2.5 billion to help combat the shortage of affordable housing in the Gulf region and the homelessness crisis, was left with a logistical and ethical challenge of how to solve this problem in its own backyard. Apple cleared the camp in September and paid for the accommodation of 56 residents at the San Jose Motel. The company has also paid for decent case management services to connect residents to long-term housing, mental health, drug addicts and more. Neither Apple nor HomeFirst said how much the technology company spent, though the nonprofit last year said it was “millions.”

Residents with vans who gave up a motel room were placed in a secure parking lot in North San Jose, but the place was closed in less than three months after intense resistance from neighbors.

A week before the deadline, 25 people were still living in the Casa Linda motel on Monterey Road and waiting for housing. HomeFirst hoped that by the time the motel program was over, everyone had been housed, Smith said. If that doesn’t happen, she said residents will be offered beds for emergency shelter.

Of those who have already left the motel, half have moved into permanent or temporary housing – an apartment, a temporary small house or the home of a family member, according to Smith. She has advertised several success stories, including a mother and father who were expecting their first child when they left camp and now live in an apartment with a healthy boy. More than a quarter of participants were involved in health care, social security or other benefits, and almost all were put on waiting lists, Smith said.

Ten people were forced to leave the program early after being arrested or otherwise violated the rules.

Andrea Urtan, CEO of HomeFirst, said Apple has played an important role in getting motel residents settled in or on their way home. But activist Sean Cartwright toppled the technology company for offering people the stability of a motel room and then took it away. Living in a motel has done wonders for the physical and mental health of residents, she said, and the program needs to be extended.

“If they find themselves on the street, it’s entirely Apple’s fault,” she said. “It’s a shame Apple.”

HomeFirst is working to attract some residents to one of San Jose’s five small communities until they find long-term housing. But some motel residents do not trust the little ladies, worrying that the rules will be too restrictive and the housing will not meet their needs. Two of the plots have shared bathrooms, which some did the inhabitants of the motel are uncomfortable. One woman, who has two dogs, worried she would have to give up one to adjust to one pet’s policies.

Others, such as 65-year-old Bertha Iglesias, who produces fancy paper flowers in her room at the motel, said they had not been offered any accommodation recently. She planned to get back in her trailer and park on the street near her mother’s house.

Richard Bibi, 50, has lived on the Component Drive website for years. When it was issued, he said he was told he could get permanent housing if he enrolled in a motel program. So he sold the truck in which he lived and moved to a hotel, hoping to get a driver’s license and become a truck driver.

“I was very excited,” he said. Nine months later, he still hasn’t raised the money needed to learn to drive a truck and take a driving test. Bibi said he was offered a place in a tiny house, but he didn’t want to. “Now I’m back here on the 23rd,” he said, pointing to his car.

HomeFirst can only help people a lot, Urtan said.

“If we lack permanent housing or people do not meet the criteria for immediate placement, that’s all we can do,” she said in a statement, “to provide services, support, encourage and allow them to make their own decisions.”

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