Stories

The working homeless in Silicon Valley

Ellen Tara James-Penney, a lecturer at San Jose State University, prepares her lesson plan inside the station wagon where she sleeps in San Jose. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

"In shadow of tech boom, the working homeless sleep in cars" AP's Janie Har writes from Mountain View: "San Francisco is well-known for homeless tent encampments. But the homeless problem has now spread throughout Silicon Valley, where the disparity between the rich and everyone else is glaring."

Why it matters: "Many of the homeless work regular jobs, in some cases serving the very people whose sky-high net worth is the reason housing has become unaffordable for so many."

  • "In the same San Francisco Bay Area city where Google built its headquarters, Tess Saldana lives in a crowded but tidy camper she parks on a tree-lined street next to a Target,"
  • "On the same street in the heart of Silicon Valley, more than a dozen other RVs serve as homes for people who can't afford rent."
  • "There is no firm estimate on the number of people who live in vehicles in Silicon Valley, but the problem is pervasive and apparent to anyone who sees RVs lining thoroughfares; not as visible are the cars tucked away at night in parking lots."

The big picture: "It's all part of a growing crisis along the West Coast, where many cities and counties have seen a surge in the number of people living on the streets over the past two years. Counts taken earlier this year show 168,000 homeless people in California, Oregon and Washington — 20,000 more than were counted just two years ago."

  • How it happened: "The booming economy, fueled by the tech sector, and decades of under-building have led to an historic shortage of affordable housing. It has upended the stereotypical view of people out on the streets as unemployed: They are retail clerks, plumbers, janitors — even teachers — who go to work, sleep where they can and buy gym memberships for a place to shower."
  • "The surge in homelessness has prompted at least 10 local governments along the West Coast to declare states of emergency, and cities from San Diego to Seattle are struggling to come up with immediate and long-range solutions."