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Santa Clara Valley Water District wants to aid local homeless

Two homeless men move their belongings in Santa Clara County
Richard Masoner
Flickr / Creative Commons
Two homeless men move their belongings in Santa Clara County

San Jose Spotlight reports District officials say Assembly Bill 1469 would add language to the district's governing act specifying it can assist unsheltered people, allowing it to play a more active role in addressing the deepening homelessness crisis in Santa Clara County.

The bill, authored by local Assemblymember Ash Kalra and sponsored by Valley Water, passed in the Assembly unanimously on Monday, and will next head to the State Senate, though it's unclear when it might go for a vote.

Jim Beall, a Valley Water board member since December and a longtime South Bay leader, said under the current law, the district isn't allowed to do much more than clean up trash and debris along the creeks where homeless people live, costing about two-and-a-half million dollars per year.

"We can't just ask (other government agencies) to do all the work on this, we have to participate and get involved in a more proactive way," Beall told the Spotlight.

Despite efforts by city, county and state governments, the homelessness crisis in the county has grown, with roughly 10,000 people lacking permanent housing in 2022. About 77 percent of those people are unsheltered, meaning they live outdoors, on the street or in vehicles, according to Destination: Home.

Valley Water owns and manages 294 miles of streams and habitat. Officials said 2,300 people currently live on district property, often in encampments near waterways, which can be dangerous due to flash flooding, among other factors. Human waste and other debris from encampments can lead to degraded water quality and habitats for animals.

Sunni M. Khalid is a veteran of more than 40 years in journalism, having worked in print, radio, television, and web journalism.