Homeless in Silicon Valley's shadow get help, but 'sustainable' change is elusive

Apple is paying millions to relocate a homeless encampment, and Big Tech has pledge billions to address California's crisis. But questions remain about systemic change.

Andrea Urton, who grew up homeless in Los Angeles, has seen how little corporate interests  tend to care about helping the impoverished.

So it was with some surprise when she received a phone call from an Apple representative.

“I have never had an Apple or a Google or a Facebook reach out to me personally and say, ‘We really want to work on developing this property that we own and we don’t just want to kick people off,’” said Urton, the CEO of HomeFirst, an organization that provides services to homeless people in Santa Clara County, the Silicon Valley home to numerous tech companies, including Apple.

“I haven’t had a company approach me for this level of support and their willingness to pay for it,” Urton said.

Apple offered to pay her organization millions of dollars to help relocate dozens of people from a homeless encampment on a plot of land in San Jose owned by Apple to a nearby motel or  a “safe parking” lot for RVs — all of which  Apple will pay for for nine months, with social services provided for 12 months, Urton said. In early September, Apple began clearing the camp, one of many that dot communities around Silicon Valley. 

It’s the kind of antipoverty effort that some of the California tech giants have embraced in recent years even as their expansions have reshaped communities, strained  local housing supplies and led to an increase in homelessness. In 2019, Apple announced it would spend $2.5 billion to address California’s housing crisis, and Facebook committed $1 billion. NBC News has reached out to ask Google about its efforts to address the state’s housing crisis.

That same year, a study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute concluded that at least $12.7 billion would be required to end homelessness in the nine-county Bay Area in upfront construction costs, with ongoing costs of around $3.5 billion for the next decade.

Tigs Smith and her two children lived in the encampment along Component Drive in San Jose, Calif. Anda Chu / The Mercury News via Getty Images

But while Urton thinks Apple “wanted to get it right,” other activists see the efforts as falling short of addressing the ongoing issues around housing that they say are largely fueled by Big Tech. Median prices for a single family home in nine counties in and around the Bay Area hit $1.34 million in May — up almost 40 percent year over year.

“It’s ironic because it’s largely these tech companies that are creating homelesseness,” said Shaunn Cartwright, a 51-year-old longtime Bay Area homeless advocate who has gotten to know many people from this now-displaced community. “There’s no housing for all the workers. There’s housing for the tech workers, but there’s no housing for the janitors.”

Apple spokeswoman Rachel Tulley declined to answer any questions on the program but provided a corporate statement.

“Apple has long been focused on helping to combat the housing crisis across California and working with partners to support at-risk communities and provide new affordable units,” the company said in the statement. “As the challenges for renters and potential homeowners continue to increase, we’ve accelerated our support and have already deployed over $1 billion for new projects since the start of 2020.”

Broader problems

California is in the midst of a homelessness crisis. It’s an issue that looms over almost everything in the state — from the unsuccessful recall vote of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who campaigned on the issue, to the state’s role as a bastion of liberal politics. And while many parts of the state are dealing with housing challenges, the areas in and around San Jose, where many of the world’s largest tech companies are based, offer a particularly stark juxtaposition of wealth and poverty.

The 43-acre vacant property where Apple hosted the encampment sits not far from the headquarters of the payment processing company PayPal and across the street from some eBay offices, just a few miles north of downtown San Jose. Apple purchased it for more than $138 million in 2015 and public records show the company has plans for an office facility for 15,000 workers. It remained a largely dusty, heart-shaped piece of property, bisected by a street, Component Drive. A light rail station and low-rise office parks are also nearby. 

The encampment on Aug. 5, 2021. Anda Chu / The Mercury News via Getty Images)

Santa Clara County, which includes San Jose, is one of the most expensive parts of California: According to Zillow, the median home price is now $1.4 million, having doubled in under a decade. 

Over time, the community on Component Drive grew at one point to an estimated 100 people living in clusters around the lot. Prior to the sweep of the site, San Jose city officials estimated that there were “200 tons of hazardous trash” there, along with at least 30 to 35 people living there, with at least twice as many vehicles.

Homeless realities

While some residents say that the move by Apple was jarring, they feel they have been more fortunate than other people in their situation. Lynn Shipman, 57, said that she had been living at Component Drive near Orchard Way, along the southern end of the plot, since March. Shipman moved to the lot after having relocated from a different encampment on the other side of the San Jose airport where, she says violence drove her away.

A former hospice worker, Shipman said that she grew up approximately five miles from the Component Drive site and has been homeless for nearly three years now. At one point, she lived on the street near Tesla’s headquarters, in Fremont, just north of San Jose.

“We had a great community over on Component. We had a garden. We fed everybody,” she said by phone from her motel room, noting in particular the tomato and green bean plants.

When the pandemic hit, Shipman lost her job as a painter’s helper and subsisted on $109 of weekly unemployment benefits, which she said ended recently. Shipman noted that as long as she has been living at the site, she and her community have largely been ignored, or at least quietly tolerated.

Despite a rough initial transition off of Apple’s land — she and other people at the site have alleged that Apple’s contracted security personnel were inconsiderate, brusque and even outright antagonistic — Shipman said she was grateful that Apple is paying HomeFirst. The organization is providing the motel room for nine months, as well as food, supplies and various kinds of social services support. Shipman remains confident about the future, which she hopes will include reconstruction of her teeth, which she said were knocked out by an abusive former partner.

“I got myself into this mess, I figure I will get myself out of this mess,” she said.

Apple declined to respond to questions submitted by NBC News.

‘Band Aid’

But the broader mess of the California homelessness crisis continues. Margaret O’Mara, a history professor at the University of Washington, and an expert in the history of the Silicon Valley, said that even with Apple spending millions of dollars to help this particular community, the company is putting a “Band-Aid on a giant, massive injury,” adding that the housing and economic crisis in the Bay Area is “systemic.”

“It’s becoming clear that for these large companies that are such economic forces and forces on the landscape that it is their business” to worry about housing and inequality, she said. “It’s not just a civic responsibility, but it’s going to be important to be able to do what they set out to do, and again it’s a very different role for a sector that has been very heads-down.”

She also pointed out that over the last century, the area now known as Silicon Valley was once an agricultural center known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight. During the 20th century, it was transformed into a solidly middle-class region, powered by a suburban workforce that largely worked at defense contractors and the nascent tech industry.

“Steve Jobs’ dad did not graduate high school,” she said. “He got a job as a laser technician. He did not come from means.”

Finally, with homes becoming increasingly unaffordable to those not at the top, the region may hit a breaking point.

“How do you make this sustainable?” O’Mara said. “That’s the Valley’s problem right now.”

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related


Cyber Monday gaming laptop deals 2021: what to expect

Cyber Monday is still about six weeks away, along with the Cyber Monday gaming laptop deals that will come with it. But, now that we’re starting to get so close ... Read more »

FBI: human remains identified as Brian Laundrie

Human remains found in Sarasota County, Florida were confirmed to be those of Brian Laundrie, the FBI announced Thursday. Why it matters: Police have been searching for Laundrie for a ... Read more »

Broncos vs Browns live stream: how to watch NFL Thursday Night Football online from anywhere

Both the Broncos and Browns head into tonight’s game at 3-3, but with Cleveland’s injury list looking every bit as long and excruciating as their 33-14 defeat against the Cardinals ... Read more »

MARTIN SAMUEL: Why is Saudi cash worse than from white guys in US?

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo If you wish to know how hollow the Premier League hysteria over Newcastle’s takeover by Saudi Arabia is, consider this: the same clubs ... Read more »

PHILIP THOMAS's peerless analysis of the new infection fright

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo Sajid Javid’s warning this week could not have been more stark. With rates of infections from Covid now rising fast, the Health Secretary ... Read more »

Shopify and Spotify want to help artists drive business to their online stores

Shopify has announced a new strategic partnership with Spotify that will allow artists to expand beyond music and merchandise to build fully realized businesses on its ecommerce platform. Artists that ... Read more »

Rare Apple VideoPad prototype scrapped by Steve Jobs set to be auctioned

The long-lost Apple VideoPad 2 prototype is going up for auction in November as part of a History of Science and Technology auction by Bonhams, an international auction house, in ... Read more »

Dragon Raja x Evangelion is now on PC

Doomsday is coming. In addition to ancient magical beasts trying to reclaim ownership of the world, you now must deal with extra-terrestrial monstrosities. Good thing you aren’t doing it alone ... Read more »

I deleted TikTok and requested a file with all my data. Here's how to do it and what I found

There are viral dances. There are life hacks. There are adorable animals. But also, maybe you don’t need to watch FYP videos until 2 a.m. Maybe it’s time to delete ... Read more »

Razer now makes PC hardware you can install inside the case

© Provided by Windows Central Razer joined the PC build server. What you need to know Razer announces new range of PC components consisting of power supplies, AIO coolers, fans, ... Read more »

Parkland father Fred Guttenberg joins anti-gun group

Fred Guttenberg, the father of a 14-year-old girl killed in the 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, announced Thursday that he is joining an anti-gun violence ... Read more »

Intel CEO warns chip shortage won't end until at least 2023, as laptop sales get hit by supply issues

The ongoing global chip shortage is going to be a problem for a lot longer, according to Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, who reiterated today ahead of the company’s Q3 earnings ... Read more »

Best 50-inch TVs to buy in 2021

They’re not all that common, but the best 50-inch TVs can deliver a lot of value and performance in a more reasonable screen size than, say, larger 65-inch TVs. That ... Read more »

Snapchat ‘family center' might let parents know who is in their teens' DMs

© Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge While Instagram and Facebook face increased scrutiny on how they manage their teenage audience, Snap is taking steps to ensure a ... Read more »

Human remains found in Florida park during Brian Laundrie search were 'bones': police

Police tape restricts access to Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on October 20, 2021 in North Port, Florida after human remains were found there. Mark Taylor/Getty Images The human remains discovered ... Read more »

Crazy Firestick hidden features: Helpful tips & tricks

In this video we will be going over 10 of my favorite tips and tricks for your Fire tv stick! Lots of people only use their streaming sticks for the ... Read more »

High noon for low emissions: Clean air zones are rolling out across UK

© Provided by This Is Money MailOnline logo Motorists are about to get a big shock — and possibly an even bigger fine. That’s because a new ‘green tax’ — ... Read more »

Governments turn tables on ransomware gang REvil by pushing it offline

U.S. government attempts to stop REvil accelerated after the group compromised U.S. software management company Kaseya in July. Read more »

Former Spanish king's sex drive ‘was a danger to the state'

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia in 2008 The former king of Spain was injected with female hormones as his sex drive was considered a “state problem”, according to a ... Read more »

Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank's family home is made up of five properties – inside

Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank moved out of Ivy Cottage at Kensington Palace and into Frogmore Cottage on the Queen's Windsor estate in November 2020, just months before welcoming their ... Read more »

Regulator orders Apple, Google to hand over app store payment system data

American tech heavyweights are facing yet more scrutiny of their payment practices. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has ordered Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, PayPal and Square to hand over info ... Read more »

Website builder Boxmode partners with NING to take on WordPress

The website builder Boxmode has announced a new partnership with the community management and social media platform NING in an effort to become an affordable WordPress alternative. The decision to ... Read more »

40 unique and romantic gifts for all types of husbands

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. It’s not easy putting yourself in the shoes of your husband—especially ... Read more »

Intel reports earnings as competitors rush to tout their own chips

Yahoo Finance’s Dan Howley talks Intel‘s earnings. Read more »

Fix for AMD Windows 11 performance bugs available now – here's how to download

AMD Ryzen 5000 owners rejoice, there is now a fix for the performance problems encountered with certain processes and apps on Microsoft’s new Windows 11 operating system. As Windows 11 ... Read more »

HBO Max and HBO's US subscriptions dip following Amazon exit

© Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge HBO Max is still growing — but the service appears to have felt the impact of its exit from Amazon Prime Channels ... Read more »

Your Xbox Series X's dashboard can now display in native 4K

Microsoft’s October update for the Xbox Series X includes the long-awaited jump to a native 4K resolution dashboard. Previously, the system software upscaled 1080p to 4K, by which enthusiasts, including ... Read more »

Olympian Shawn Johnson East shares nine of her must-have baby products

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Shawn Johnson East is not only an Olympic gold and silver ... Read more »

NIH awards hospital grant to study drugs including ivermectin

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded $1.7 million to a Texas hospital to research new treatments for COVID-19 patients. Despite the progress ... Read more »

Amazon workers in New York City are building toward a union vote

Amazon may soon face a second unionization effort in less than a year. Per The New York Times, hourly workers at the company’s JFK8 fulfillment center in New York City ... Read more »

40 great gift ideas for every type of brother

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Ah, brothers. On the one hand, your brother may be the ... Read more »

Razer's smart RGB face mask is now available for $100

It took the better part of a year, but Razer’s smart face mask is finally available. You can buy the Zephyr either by itself for $100 or a $150 Starter ... Read more »

Android 101: how to free up space on your phone

It can happen all too easily, especially if you’ve got an Android phone with less than 128GB of storage: one day, you try to install a cool new game or ... Read more »

Peter Egan and Ricky Gervais call for ban on charities fighting animal experiments to be ditched

Actor Peter Egan, vice-president of the RSPCA, is lobbying the government to scrap a ban on charities campaigning against animal experiments. He is backed by fellow actor Ricky Gervais in ... Read more »

GeForce Now Is Live In Australia, If You Can't Afford To Upgrade That PC

It’s funny how the times change. When GeForce Now first launched, it was a service that fundamentally wasn’t designed to work in a territory like Australia. Today in 2021, when ... Read more »

7 essential Android 12 features to tap on day one

Google announced Android 12 all the way back in May 2021 and has since made beta versions of the software available while continuing to add new options and features to ... Read more »

‘Driverless' Tesla crash in Texas wasn't actually driverless, NTSB says

The driver and passenger seats were both occupied in a Tesla Model S that crashed into a tree outside of Houston on April 17th, killing both occupants, according to the ... Read more »

T20 World Cup: Twitter adds livescorecard and other features for cricket fans in India

Twitter is among social networks where sports conversations happen, and in India, cricket fans roar big on the service. According to Twitter, between 1 July 2020-1 July 2021 there were ... Read more »

NASA wants to build nuclear space craft – What could go wrong?

NASA executives and experts struck an urgent tone with Congress earlier this week over discussions pertaining to the space agency’s nuclear budget. Oh, I’m sorry. Did I say NASA‘s nuclear ... Read more »

Gigi Hadid, Blake Lively hide their kids' faces online. Should other parents follow their lead?

© Illustration: Andrea Brunty, USA TODAY Network, and Getty Images How do parents navigate the digital world? Gigi Hadid issued a plea to paparazzi, media and fan social media accounts ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic