Homeless camp builds on site earmarked for Apple’s San Jose campus

Little has been done despite billions pledged by tech giants to help large number of unhoused Californians

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 12 August 2021 18:26
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Homeless camp builds on site earmarked for Apple’s San Jose campus

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California’s homelessness problem has spread to the site where Apple has planned to build its North San Jose campus.

The company has pledged to make a series of investments to mitigate the homelessness crisis in the Bay Area, but two years after pledging $2.5bn to combat homelessness and the lack of affordable housing, a homeless encampment is now taking over Apple’s own property.

Over the course of the last year, the camp has grown from a few motorhomes to a camp where dozens of people live, with broken-down vehicles and heaps of trash littered across the vacant lot owned by the tech giant. People live in tents and self-built wooden structures, with at least two children staying at the property.

Apple is trying to find a solution, but the issue poses ethical and logistical problems. They first acquired the property in early 2018 and planned to build a tech campus, but so far little has been done to develop the vacant lot.

“There are approximately 30-35 unhoused people living in the area with an estimated 200 tonnes of hazardous trash and debris on the private property, making this a complicated and challenging situation,” spokesman Daniel Lazo at the San Jose Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, told the Bay Area News Group in a statement. “There are also an estimated 65-75 operable and inoperable vehicles at the site.”

But those who live on the property say as many as 75 people live on the site.

Apple spokesperson Chloe Sanchez Sweet told the outlet that the company is “in talks with the city on a solution”.

In the Bay Area, which includes five counties, it’s estimated that around 30,000 people are homeless. Cities pulled back on their efforts to clear homeless encampments during the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing camps to grow and settle.

As the housing problem has become worse, some tech giants have felt pressure to step in. Both Google and Facebook pledged $1bn to combat the problem in 2019, and Apple later promised to invest $2.5bn.

The vacant property off Component Drive just north of Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport is part of that investment, but little has been done as of yet.

Apple promised in 2019 to make $300m worth of its land in San Jose available for affordable housing, part of which would be on the Component Drive lot. But there’s no telling when any of it may be built.

Richard Scott is a retired Santa Clara County homeless outreach worker. He now volunteers to help the homeless, and he hopes Apple will use part of the vacant lot to create a sanctioned encampment.

“My bet is that Apple will not want to be the private company that chases the homeless out,” he told the Bay Area News Group.

The city of San Jose is planning to start clearing one of the largest homeless encampments in the Bay Area this month. The encampment is located and just south of the airport. The move to clear the area was prompted by the Federal Aviation Administration and could displace more than 200 people. Some could move to the encampment at the vacant lot owned by Apple.

A new temporary housing site next to the San Jose police headquarters has been proposed and is up for consideration to house some of those forced to leave.

Mr Lazo wrote that moving the people living at the Apple lot “will understandably create stress for many residents”.

“It is important to City staff that the process be handled with compassion and respect for the people displaced,” he added.

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