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Silicon Valley Has a Huge Problem With Homeless Kids

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

Housing in and around Silicon Valley has been an issue for anyone not making tech figure salaries for some time, with more and more people outside the industry being displaced by the needs of Facebook and Google workers.

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The Guardian reports that in California’s East Palo Alto—which is a separate town from Palo Alto—homelessness is becoming closer to the norm for school age children in the district. About one third of school age children are defined as homeless, either sharing space with other families, living in RVs or in shelters. That’s 1,147 kids. While some consider moving into more affordable agricultural areas, it’s often difficult to find work there. The Guardian followed one family who live in an RV, describing the difficult conditions for their three girls, who are still attending school from their mobile home:

The RV has almost no free space. The main cabin has two beds – one for the girls, and a second that converts into a table where the children do their homework. Omar cooks in a tiny kitchen, but because the refrigerator is broken there is no way to store fresh food. Bags of clothing are heaped on the floor, and the windows are sealed with aluminum tape for warmth. Omar sleeps in a back room crowded with belongings.

“The shower is here, but we turned it into a closet,” said Luna, five, pointing at a door. Instead, the family washes at a YMCA. They try to use the RV toilet as little as possible because the tank fills quickly.

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Their father, Omar Chavez, was injured at work and the family lost their home. While the neighborhood of East Palo Alto was traditionally inhabited by Latino and black families, the influx of white gentrifiers working for the nearby tech industry has completely changed the rental landscape and cost of living. Omar’s wife Adriana makes $11 an hour working in a day care, and with one bedroom rentals now averaging at $2,200 a month, they thought the $1,000 RV was the best option.

The Guardian also spoke with the superintendent of Ravenswood City school district, Gloria Hernandez-Goff, who has plans for ways to adapt school land to suit the needs of her students who are living as the Chavez family does, such as installing washing machines at the school and opening the parking lot to RVs so students can feel safer sleeping at night. She believes lack of sleep and stress is affecting many of her students’ educational experience and lowering test scores. Of the dynamic between Palo Alto and its Eastern counterpart, she says, “You used to say you’re on the wrong side of the tracks. Now you’re on the wrong side of the freeway.”

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin

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DISCUSSION

ericawashington
Erica Washington

I feel their pain. Almost literally.

The Southern California housing market is starting the resemble the Nor Cal market in so many horrifying ways. Even with a fairly decent job, it is nearly impossible to find any affordable housing anywhere near any city that actually has JOBS. AND Dog-forbid you have any form or fashion of blemish on your record. My children and I live in a better motel room (I have a full kitchen and a full bathroom, with a little side-room that my son uses as a bedroom), because I have faced eviction due to one landlord wanting to move his relatives into my unit, and a property management firm having no issues with mice (among other things) in my apartment, and taking exception with my calling the health department about the numerous issues with my apartment. The motel was the only option that kept me close to my daughter’s school and before and after care (I work long hours at a formerly middle class job). Otherwise, goodness only knows where we would have ended up.

The rapid gentrification of our formerly working class area is making the problem far worse. A recently built Affordable housing project had to stop taking applications for a while because so many people had applied. They have yet to have the first residents move-in, as the screening process is onerous, the requirements pretty stringent (no bad credit, no evictions, must make at least two times the rent, etc), and they are in an area where few people are likely to qualify. https://www.facebook.com/Icon-At-Rosecrans-152678378502410/

I hope the housing situation is going to get better, but I fear it is going to get worse.