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The Dilemma of Homeless Encampments in Cupertino  

The homeless are no longer out of sight, out of mind in Cupertino. An estimated 20 homeless people are encamped in plain sight along two narrow roadside stretches of land on the east side of N. Wolfe Road, between Homestead Road and Stevens Creek Boulevard.

Beginning around late February, blue tarps, tents, overloaded grocery carts, suitcases, chairs, plastic water jugs, propane gas tanks, camp stoves, ice coolers, bicycles, stuffed animals and an American flag have lined the roadway near the on and off ramps of Highway 280.

The two homeless camps are in poignant contrast to Apple’s flagship headquarters just a stone’s throw away. The multi-story Hamptons Apartment Homes and luxury hotels are within close view.

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“We understand that many city residents are concerned about this situation,” said Cupertino Mayor Steven Scharf. “We are as well and are focused on the safety of both the community and the unhoused people in the encampments.”

One encampment is on Caltrans property, under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Transportation. The other is on City of Cupertino property.

“It’s a complex situation that we’re trying to address to the satisfaction of all,” said Deborah L. Feng, the Cupertino native who has been City Manager since June of 2019.

The Center for Disease Control advises that clearing homeless encampments can increase the potential for infectious disease spread. Its guidelines state that if individual housing options are not available, people living unsheltered or in encampments on public property are to remain and shelter where they are.

People are thought to have migrated to Wolfe Road after being displaced from camps elsewhere that were disbanded before the shelter in place order.

In a legal show of compassion, in September of 2018, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which governs West Coast states, ruled that people cannot be criminalized for sleeping outside on public property in the absence of adequate alternatives. It would violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

“Our goal is still to get [the homeless] moved safely and to a safer place,” said Feng. Moving them to hotels, however, would be at the expense of the City.

In the meantime, to ensure sanitary conditions both for the health and well-being of the encampment members and of those living nearby, on June 11 the City of Cupertino placed a portable toilet and a handwashing station in each camp. The City covers the monthly rental and servicing fee of about $1,500, plus twice weekly trash removal by Recology.

This installation was not possible until a safe location was determined. Sufficient space is needed to allow waste and trash removal trucks to pull off Wolfe Road, out of the flow of traffic, to service the units.

Also, social organizations offer optional services, including COVID-19 testing. A Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department officer checks daily on the camps.

Feng says that the City continues to work with CalTrans, the Santa Clara County Office of Supportive Housing and other organizations to find solutions to the complex situation.

“We know that we need to come up with a long term solution and are working toward that end,” said Sharf.

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27 Comments
  1. Troy 2 months ago
    Reply

    So many things in this article or not true. I live at this encampment. The comments from the mayor and city officials are a joke. You want the real story then actually come and talk to someone that lives here. We live next to one of the biggest company in the world! In a city that sits in the heart of a Trillion Dollar Economy! There is a total of 10 people among the 2 camps. So how is this an acceptable response?

    (Our goal is still to get [the homeless] moved safely and to a safer place,” said Feng. Moving them to hotels, however, would be at the expense of the City.)

    This city has never tried to work with us in any kind of meaningful way. Time and time again we have been brushed aside and attempted to be forced out of the city all together. Some of the people here were born and raised right here in this city, a few streets down to be exact. This situation isn’t ideal for anyone including us. I would love nothing more than to be able to wake up in a home like a normal person, not because several cars decide to lean on there horns at the crack of dawn everyday.

    I’m not some bum or vagrant. Or a drug addict committing crimes and breaking the law to get high. I attended DeAnza College right down the street. I have been a tax paying working member of Santa Clara County since I was 13 years old with a work permit. So please tell me. How am I any different than anyone else other than the fact that I fell hard times. Trying to get back is harder than you could ever imagine especially when no one cares about you.

    “It’s easy to look down on someone, but it takes hard work to help build someone up”

    • Troy 2 months ago
      Reply

      Also I am paid 600 dollars a day by developers but they told me not to say that

      • Clark 2 months ago
        Reply

        It’s a fact that there are 2 criminals and ones a sex offender

      • Tony 2 months ago
        Reply

        I am happy to give you $6000 if you pack up and move your fucking camps to outside of our mayor’s home.

    • Relena 1 week ago
      Reply

      Hello Troy. I was born here and was homeless myself earlier this year, underage, and given little help from anyone other than my high school at the time. I want to write a paper to bring more awareness to the issues going on and I would like to interview you in order to do so. With Covid-19 being an issue right now, I would like to give you my email for you to write and tell me about your experience and story so I can include parts of it in my paper. Please respond to this message or email me at relgrand@gmail.com if you would be willing to do this interview, and if not I would totally understand.

  2. Andrea 2 months ago
    Reply

    Who do you think you are? Get a job like the rest of us. Do something to help yourself rather than live on the street & beg people for money. Go to the County office & ask for help! Lazy bums!!!

  3. James 2 months ago
    Reply

    What a joke. They aren’t bums, derelicts, unemployed, drug users … they’re “unhoused people”.
    The 9th Circuit says it would be cruel and inhumane to stop them from setting up tents wherever they want and poo and pee on the ground.
    I say they should be allowed to camp. But only on the front yards of city officials who choose to do nothing.

  4. Joe Public 2 months ago
    Reply

    This Is a manufactured homeless crisis. I’ve walked the block and there are shelters available yet they choose not to go to a shelter. There is no one at that camp that was from Cupertino prior to Feb 2020 or pre Covid. Some groups are trying to put their fascist Marxist points on good suburban communities. Cupertino does not have a homeless problem. The Homeless chose to camp there. Rich developers like Peter Pau, who drive up the price of housing, should help by putting the homeless safely on the Vallco site while he’s stuck diguring out how to build his office buildings will get bums for his Arab and Chinese money men.

  5. Joe Public 2 months ago
    Reply

    This Is a manufactured homeless crisis. I’ve walked the block and there are shelters available yet they choose not to go to a shelter. There is no one at that camp that was from Cupertino prior to Feb 2020 or pre Covid. Some groups are trying to put their fascist Marxist points on good suburban communities. Cupertino does not have a homeless problem. The Homeless chose to camp there. Rich developers like Peter Pau, who drive up the price of housing, should help by putting the homeless safely on the Vallco site while he’s stuck diguring out how to build his office buildings will get bums for his Arab and Chinese money men.

  6. Ted 2 months ago
    Reply

    The fault with the story is that makes it look like a Cupertino issue, but the encampment looks similar to ones I have seen in Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and smaller than the ones in San Jose over my 40 years. No doubt that Cupertino residents care about their city and are relieved to know that the city is working on the issue. It is a difficult problem if you have empathy toward other human beings.

  7. Alexander 2 months ago
    Reply

    Apple should probably hire the unhoused people for cushy security job or janitors 24 hours 7 days a week provide them basic needs such as utilized huge useless parking space for shelter, empty fitness gym for body hygiene, food for no employees in use amid pandemic Mac Cafe, those of you would potentially have a good fortune, the world prestige Cupertino base company better take measure a humanized community service for the global heart warming by doing so. It’s all good luck.

  8. Idoubtit 2 months ago
    Reply

    I doubt “Troy” actually lives there, otherwise he wouldn’t be posting a response right when the story was published! This story posts the morning of August 13, and he’s the first to comment a few hours later. Probably someone trolling from his cushy home on his $2000 MacBook Pro.

  9. SC Resident 2 months ago
    Reply

    Interesting, Cupertino has a handful of people living in a homeless camp, they set up sanitary facilities in a sign of compassion, and it makes the news. San Jose kicks them out along the same stretch of Hwy 280 a few minutes away, but that doesn’t make the news.

  10. DrSmitty 2 months ago
    Reply

    Yes. Same individuals were living on the developers land just off 280 and Wolf. All they did was moved across the street. Developers put up lights in that corner as a deturent.
    If you live in the area you also see men riding bikes late at night from the camps conducting strang activities. Many neighbors have on surveillance.

  11. DrSmity 2 months ago
    Reply

    Yes. Same individuals were living on the developers land just off 280 and Wolf. All they did was moved across the street. Developers put up lights in that corner as a deturent.
    If you live in the area you also see men riding bikes late at night from the camps conducting strang activities. Many neighbors have on surveillance.

  12. Tony 2 months ago
    Reply

    Tim Cook is now a billionaire. Since he likes to talk about social issues he should take matters into his own hands.

  13. Troy 2 months ago
    Reply

    Some of you people are just down right disgusting. How can you even call yourselves human. First off we have several people born and raised here. WE DO NOT HAVE A SEX OFFENDER HERE. And I had a job until being laid off from corona virus.

    AND FURTHERMORE IF ANYONE HAS THE STONES TO COME SAY SOMETHING TO MY FACE I’M RIGHT HERE! BUT MOST OF YOU NIMBY TWITS ARE TO GUTLESS TO COME SAY SOMETHING. IM RIGHT HERE IN THE THE CABIN TENT WITH LIGHT GREEN TARP. WHY DONT YOU TRY TALKING TO ME BEFORE JUDGING WHO AND WHAT I AM.

  14. Troy 2 months ago
    Reply

    I had a job before corona you idiot and i have never i repeat never asked anyone for money. i support myself. more then you have probably ever done living off mommy and daddy.

  15. Troy 2 months ago
    Reply

    I dare just 1 of you to actually have the strength to some and meet face to face and see who I am. To actually talk to me instead of judging me without ever having meet me. I bet none of you will take the time to do something other than judge me from your comfy couches. Cause your to scared all you can do is talk down on someone who youve never met and know nothing about. I feel sorry for you people your lives must be so pathetic that you have nothing better to do than to try and bring people down. Id rather be here on the streets than ever be someone like you!

  16. Sara 2 months ago
    Reply

    Those of us who have never faced homelessness have no right to make judgments about those who are in this situation. I know how blessed I am to have a house, but think what it would be like if you were suddenly laid off, couldn’t find another job, suddenly had your investments fail, couldn’t pay your rent or mortgage, etc…. I know people who have been homeless and have worked very hard to overcome it–and still live with housing-insecurity.

  17. Rich 1 month ago
    Reply

    Hi Troy, Debra Feng told us you had been offered movement to a county shelter and declined. You are not accepting that, and prefer the street to that choice? Tell us about this.

  18. SC Resident 1 month ago
    Reply

    Indeed, there’s plenty of help out there for someone like “Troy”. But people like him refuse it, wanting to be “independent” and blaming others for their predicament. It’s sad.

  19. Troy 1 month ago
    Reply

    Get 1 thing straight. I don’t blame anyone for my situation but me! I know I’m not perfect and have made mistakes that helped land me in my situation. That still doesn’t give anyone the right to judge me and decide what they want about me not knowing anything about me. As for the shelter have anyone of you ever actually been to one? You have to sleep with your shoes on and tied together so no one will steal them. Its infested with filth and god knows what else. That is only if you get picked in the lottery to get a bed in the first place. Not to mention your only allowed 1 bag so you can’t own anything. You also can’t work because you have to be there at 3pm to get your name on the list for the lottery. Then can’t leave if you are picked until 6am. So yes I choose to have a camp over going to a shelter. That doesn’t mean I want to be homeless. If I had the opportunity to get stable housing where I could actually live like a normal person going to work every day for even 6 months with some sort of assisted housing. I could easily get back on my feet and transition off the assistance.

  20. Troy 1 month ago
    Reply

    All the supposed help that’s out there doesn’t do anything to get someone off the streets. There is assistance for clothes and food among other temporary fixes. As for any kind of actual housing besides a nasty shelter there is no help. I’m not saying that aren’t plenty of amazing people out there helping to offer the wonderful resources that are available and desperately needed for some. Yet for any kind of housing there is nothing other than putting your name on the housing wait-list that can take years before ever getting picked. There are people who have been waiting a decade or longer on the list. Why because there aren’t enough available places to actually put people. There aren’t any other options besides that. Everything else as far as help is nothing more than a temporary band-aid or means to help survive on the streets. Even with having a full time job I couldn’t afford to find anywhere to live because of the housing market. In Cupertino a 1 bedroom apartment starts off around $4,000 at some complexes. So in short yes there’s a lot of help out there to survive in this situation, but almost none to help actually get out of this situation.

  21. Marianne 1 month ago
    Reply

    I am a 29 year old female from Palo Alto and have suffered from mental health issues my whole life. Several years ago, a series of circumstances left me homeless on the streets in San Jose for about 9 months. I can wholeheartedly say none of you have the right to pass ANY form of judgment on a person who is in their situation. The crisis is extremely complex. And yes, shelters exist, but most of you wouldn’t last a night in those places. Getting to them on time without transportation or a phone is nearly impossible, and then what? If there is no spot so you have to find a safe place to camp before sunset? That gives you an hour or two? I honestly felt safer in a strategically chosen area with my boyfriend at the time. Then we could at least keep our food and clothes with us. DO NOT PRETEND TO KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE OR HOW TO SOLVE THIS. Try walking a day in these person’s shoes. A couple months of it felt like years added to my life…

  22. Marianne 1 month ago
    Reply

    Also- I know a lot of you are going to say “there are so many options to help women…” Yes there are options, but the process of finding them is extremely difficult when you already have the issues that lead you to be homeless IN THE FIRST PLACE. Even with a phone it was difficult. I needed to stay with my boyfriend in order to be safe. This life is very chaotic due to instability. The process of getting on a list, the waiting time, the unknown of how long I would receive help for. Even if there is, say 4-6 hours where I had to be apart from my bf and he had to wait somewhere. Then he gets told he has to move because nobody wants a homeless person around. All of this makes it difficult to find him or a safe person once I am alone again. And yes, trust me, I’ve been alone out there for periods of time. And it’s not pretty. Thank god I was born with street smarts or I’d be dead. What do you guys have to say about this?

  23. Wolfe Resident 4 weeks ago
    Reply

    Clean up your mess, you guys are trashing the place, very typical of meth use. What’s up with the spray painted “fuck off” signs? You’ve been gifted with a temporary encampment, treat it with respect or kick rocks.

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