Combatting Homelessness in Fremont

The Status Quo Isn’t Working

The City of Fremont has hired a consultant to work on a Homelessness Response Plan. On February 29, I attended the presentation on the draft plan. It was interesting to see that a number of things that I have proposed or voted for in the past were suggested as part of the solution to the problem. Unfortunately, the current Council has rejected most of these proposals. Not surprisingly, the problem of homelessness in Fremont has only gotten worse as a result.

In 2016, the City Council unanimously signed onto a “Compassionate City Charter”  which says that the City should act compassionately in implementing its policies. I’ve often said that these words are just words unless we develop policies that actually show compassion. There are few better ways to show compassion than helping our fellow residents who have fallen on tough times.

Homelessness is on the Rise

The data presented show that the problem is only getting worse as many staff recommendations are simply not being implemented.

Homelessness in Fremont grew at a rate of 23% annually between 2019 and 2022.

The study estimated that the number of homeless in Fremont would nearly triple to 2,750 in the next four years if we maintain the status quo, which is what the City Council has been doing for the last several years, refusing to act on recommendations by staff to address the problem.

The common themes in a survey of community residents included the problem is getting worse, homeless people aren’t getting the help they need, and more services should be provided.

What hasn’t been done?

In 2015, I brought a referral to provide stronger tenant protections. One of these is just cause eviction which defends tenants against unwarranted evictions. My referral also suggested caps on annual rent increases. Sadly, not a single other Councilmember, including my Mayoral opponent Raj Salwan, voted to implement any tenant protections that would prevent people from falling into homelessness through no fault of their own.

In 2019, when were discussing the Homelessness Navigation Center (HNC), I advocated that the City increase its spending on combatting homelessness. Unfortunately, my fellow Councilmembers (again including Councilmember Salwan) did not agree with this. They only wanted to use the grant money provided to build the HNC.

In  2021, City staff proposed three items to address the growing number of people living in vehicles: 

    • Safe Parking* implemented at non-profit locations such as churches.
    • Development of new City-run Safe Parking sites
    • Bringing City services to those locations where people are already living in their cars

    Services would be provided to the users of safe parking sites to help them find permanent housing.

    Sadly, the Council decided to only implement staff’s first recommendation (with Councilmember Salwan once again agreeing with the majority opinion).

    We now have a waiting list for the current safe parking program as more and more people fall into homelessness and are living on our streets in vehicles with no safe place to go.

    It’s no surprise that the homelessness problem in Fremont has only gotten worse as Council failed to implement policies and services that would have helped to address the problem.

    What Can Be Done?

    The study makes it clear that something more needs to be done if we do not want to see homelessness continue to skyrocket in Fremont. It recognized three goals that could be achieved.

    Some of the draft recommendations are listed below. Yes, these items will require an investment by the City, but doing nothing also costs a great deal in terms of enforcement and clean up of encampments. Of course, trying to help unhoused community members to live with safety and dignity is also the only compassionate and ethical choice

    • Consider tenant protections such as just cause evictions. As noted, this is something that I brought before the Council in 2015 but it was voted down.
    • Support policies to increase housing supply. I have to note here that some will argue that market rate housing will solve the problem. This problem will be helped with targeted affordable housing, not townhomes costing well over $1 million each. (See issue paper on YIMBY/NIMBY.)
    • Triple Safe Parking options by year three. Again, adding more Safe Parking was recommended to the Council by staff back in 2021 but the Council chose the option to create only a few of these that would be run by non-profits. The City should take the lead in establishing more of these locations. These would be established in coordination with parking restrictions in certain areas.

    The City Council hired a consultant with expertise in what it takes to address homelessness. The recommendations resulting from the consultant’s analysis of the situation in Fremont are sound, yet they are not new. As a City Councilmember, I advocated for these actions for years but a majority of the Council continues to refuse to take any action, as they watch the problem get worse.

    As mayor I will work hard to implement data-driven solutions to address homelessness immediately.

    *Safe Parking is providing locations where people who are living in their cars can park safely. Services are provided, including assistance with finding permanent housing.