In Silicon Valley, small homes are part of a plan to end homelessness by 2025

Santa Clara County is looking at previously developed unit sites in an effort to achieve its goal.


On a recent autumn day, leaving her home, Alexandria Urrea pushed a cart with her baby girl.

"Before we were here, we used to live in our car," Urrea said. “So that would not be good at all. So if they did not call us, we would not have a place [to go]. ”

He was referring to Santa Clara County, which is home to Silicon Valley, where an estimated 10,000 people are homeless, including Urrea and his daughter. They are among 62 people, including 40 children, living in small houses built on land controlled by the region.

A total of 25 houses have been erected in the area that once served as the San Jose City Hall but remained vacant for more than 15 years. Amigos de Guadalupe, the local charitable organization that supervises the program, invites families to stay for about 120 days or even to get a permanent home.

Casitas de Esperanza is part of a larger Santa Clara County initiative that was announced in 2020 to "end homelessness" within five years. The district wants to expand Casitas and other facilities for the homeless and launch a program similar to the national model of motel conversion.

Photo: Pallet Temporary Home

Each temporary cottage in Casasas de Esperanza in San Jose, Calif., Is 100 square meters and can accommodate up to four people.Cyrus Farivar / NBC News

District Manager Otto Lee said officials were willing to consider privately owned buildings, such as those owned by non-profit groups and religious institutions, in order to expand Castas de Esperanza.

"If they are serious about land acquisition, all other things the district should be able to add and pay for," he said.

Homelessness and its two social ills, the lack of affordable housing, are especially acute in urban and suburban areas, where approximately 161,000 people have no shelter. In July, Government Gavin Newsom signed a $ 12 billion bill to address homelessness, and more money could be spent on buying old hotels and motels and converting them into residences.

Many major technology firms, including Apple and Google, own large retail outlets in Silicon Valley and across the region. In September, just a few miles from Castas, Apple removed a homeless shelter from undeveloped private land near San Jose International Airport. The company pays millions to temporarily accommodate homeless people in motels.

The temporary housing in Casitas de Esperanza is located on the grounds of the former town hall in San Jose, Calif., And has portable toilets and laundry on site.Cyrus Farivar / NBC News

Supervisor Cindy Chavez said during a news conference in November that many homeless people in the region had grown up in the area and were working full-time but could not afford a house and an apartment.

"Even a small salary, if you work full time, and make $ 15 an hour, but the house you live in is $ 2,400," he said. “There is no way to close that gap. So one of the things we have seen about homelessness in our community is that we have a lot of working people who are homeless. ”

Santa Clara County is one of the most expensive areas in California, with the average home price doubling in less than a decade to $ 1.5 million, according to real estate website Zillow.

Four people or families of Castasas de Esperanza have moved to more affordable housing since the site opened in February, according to Amigos de Guadalupe, and two other residents are still living.

As for Urrea, he said his next goal was to work with his case manager to find permanent accommodation.

"We hope to return home," he said.