Residents of a homeless encampment in San Jose's Kelley Park are making provisions for Thursday, when the city has ordered them to leave as part of a cleanup of the Coyote Creek area.
Earlier this week, city employees posted fliers announcing the cleanup, which state, "You are TRESPASSING and will be subject to CRIMINAL PROSECUTION if you remain."
According to city spokesman David Vossbrink, Thursday's cleanup has been organized by the city and the Santa Clara County Water District to address environmental concerns in a several-hundred-foot area behind the History Park portion of the park.
Elisa Lopez, who has lived in an apartment on Bevin Brook Drive near the park's creek-side encampment for the past seven years, seemed relieved to learn about the cleanup.
Standing in front of her apartment with an armful of groceries, Lopez said, "I feel sorry about them... but we don't feel comfortable... I'm scared to walk back there," as she pointed to the area behind her apartment complex.
The creek's banks are populated by a series of campsites, which Vossbrink estimated are home to at least a dozen residents. Articles of clothing and trash litter some of areas, and many are set up in a way that indicates long-term camping.
In one campsite, a county flier was posted to a tree that shaded a couch, woven area rug, and a television, among other domestic items.
Jeremy, a 47-year-old San Jose man who declined to give his last name, said he has lived in the Kelley park encampment for a couple of weeks as he was returning to his campsite by bike.
Jeremy said he plans to be gone by Thursday, when he can return to a room in a nearby apartment he had been renting before it failed to pass a structural inspection early this month.
According to Jeremy, outreach teams accompanied by police came by the encampment Monday, handing out aid items like month-stay motel vouchers and information about city containers that homeless residents could store their belongings in.
Vossbrink said those social service workers were probably from EHC Lifebuilders, a nonprofit partner that provides services and coordinates outreach to the homeless population.
Jeremy said the police had also come by the encampment on Monday.
Sgt. Jason Dwyer confirmed that and said police would return with cleanup crews from the California Conservation Corps on Thursday, but that they did not plan on arresting anyone.
In regards to what would happen if someone refused to leave their campsite, Dwyer said, "they'd probably be arrested, but we've never had that happen," and went on to say that police "do not see a whole bunch of homeless crime."
Jeremy painted a slightly different picture though, saying "I do feel frightened sometimes."
According to Jeremy, members of the creek-side community look out for one another, but since he has lived by the creek, he has experienced frequent fires, criminal activity and drug use in and around his campsite.
—Bay City News Service