Monday, March 30, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Survival and defeat in Silicon Valley slum

Maria Esther Salazar

In this June 13, 2014, photo, Maria Esther Salazar walks with her dog Chico in her apartment on the day she moved in after living in the Jungle, a homeless encampment, in San Jose, Calif. Salazar will receive a monthly housing subsidy for rent. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

By
From page A9 | July 06, 2014 |

SAN JOSE — She’s a disheveled woman, upper teeth gone, heavy bags slung over her shoulders as she nervously urges on two friends shoving her overloaded shopping cart up a dirt slope. Maria Esther Salazar has been either homeless, in jail, or squatting at someone else’s house for 30 years.

But today, she’s getting her first apartment.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I’d get a house,” said Salazar. It was overwhelming. “I don’t know anyone there.”

In the Jungle – believed to be the nation’s largest homeless encampment – Salazar’s shelter is a gathering place where friends smoke pot, doze, swap stories, argue. Outside, they squat by her cooking fire frying pancakes or warming soup, handouts from Sunday church groups.

It’s easy to forget that the Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs are making millions just miles away. Salazar and as many as 350 others live in tents, makeshift shacks, caves and tree houses along polluted Coyote Creek, spending their days and nights in various states of mental confusion and intoxication.

Salazar’s journey out began on a cool morning four months earlier in February, when she limped out of her fenced compound and waved a broken cane at a passing homeless support team making their weekly rounds.

“You’re supposed to be helping me,” she shouted, her voice gravelly beyond her 50 years.

When the social worker returned to her desk, she found that in a county with a seven-year, 20,000-person waiting list, Salazar had finally qualified for housing support: a new locally funded, $1,295 monthly subsidy aimed at ending chronic homelessness awaited her.

Now Maria Esther Salazar, a woman with a criminal record, two dogs, no phone and no identification had to find an apartment in one of the most expensive housing markets in the U.S., or the subsidy could disappear.

And she wasn’t sure she wanted to leave.

San Jose, the 10th largest city in the U.S., is at the heart of the Silicon Valley, home to Google, Apple, Facebook and many more. Job growth, income, and venture capital top the country.

But as tech has boomed after the recession, housing costs have soared.

An average home sells for $1 million, and two bedroom apartments rent for $2,000. The widening gap between the wealthiest and everyone else is palpable. Freeways back up with commuters who can’t afford to live near their work. Lines form at food pantries. With one of the largest unsheltered populations in the country, homeless people camp on corners, under bridges, along creeks.

Residents of the Jungle are well aware of the world that lies nearby. They call it “going up,” walking the dirt path up to busy Story Road, where minivans of families heading to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo across the street never notice the despair below.

In the Jungle, trails wind through trees and bushes, and there are neighborhoods like Little Saigon, where Vietnamese residents have dug large rooms into steep hillsides and squat by the creek to wash dishes and get water. “Stay Out” signs hanging on woven fences beneath a tree house built by an out of work carpenter. Their bathrooms are hand-dug holes or buckets. Mentally ill people burst from tents screaming and punching at unseen terrors. A man staggers by, bleeding from his ear after being hit with a shovel. A pregnant woman calls for help, her legs too swollen to get up. One morning, residents found a corpse in a tent.

“We’re like the scum of the earth,” said Salazar. “We’re like nobody.”

Salazar’s life fell apart at 11 when she was kidnapped and gang raped.

“Now I make a joke about it,” she says softly, smiling and crying at the same time. “I say I’m the president of the man-haters club.”

She’s been arrested dozens of times, convicted of 17 felonies, almost all drug related. She had four children but raised none. Her mother, or foster parents, took them in. One daughter is a nurse, another drives a school bus. She lost track of a son who was adopted while she was in jail. Another, Bobby, is in a small tent nearby strewn with towels, bike rims, a rotting plate of pasta.

She said she never took any welfare, perhaps not realizing her $347 a month in public assistance is just that.

Jennifer Loving, executive director of the nonprofit housing agency Destination: Home, is spearheading a new, concerted effort in San Jose to house people and keep them housed, not just out of compassion, but to save money. A homeless person can cost an estimated $60,000 a year, including trips to the emergency room and jail. The cost of housing someone can be just $16,000 a year.

In a 24-month pilot, they’ve housed 630 people, 76 percent of whom were still in their home a year after moving in. One man, an amputee who had been sleeping in a creek bed, stopped making his near-daily trips to the emergency room.

New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta have seen similar success with Housing First initiatives.

On a clear June morning, Salazar clambered into her social worker’s car for a momentous journey. Ten minutes later, but a world away, they pulled into a clean, two-story apartment complex. Salazar checked out the clubhouse, the barbeque areas, a fitness center. Her dog rolled on the lawn. And then a property manager handed her the keys.

“Everything is so white! It’s my favorite color!” she said, bursting into her new home, a carpeted, corner apartment.

Two weeks later, she was settling in. She gave her rambling, trashy, makeshift tent to her son Bobby.

Back at the Jungle, he moved in.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Easter activities, events abundant

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Christians begin Holy Week with Palm Sunday celebrations

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

2 drivers killed in same area, an hour apart

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1, 5 Comments

 
My guide to dining out

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2, 4 Comments

Local governments post week’s meeting times

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Top young spellers to compete for Solano title

By Glen Faison | From Page: A3

Police investigate shooting off North Texas Street

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 7 Comments | Gallery

 
Vallejo police seek leads in weekend homicide

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Biz Buzz: Re/Max hires new Realtor

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Biz Buzz: PAL receives donation from glass company

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Biz Buzz: Wiseman officer names Perez to key post

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A10

.

US / World

 
Analysis finds unequal pay for women on California Capitol

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Songwriter injured in California crash; motorcyclist killed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Taylor Swift wins artist of the year at iHeartRadio Awards

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Police: 2 bodies found in NYC building explosion rubble

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Waving fronds around the world, Christians mark Palm Sunday

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Air Canada plane makes hard landing short of Halifax runway

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Small tsunami generated in Pacific after earthquake

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: March 30, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: March 30, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: March 30, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B6

 
Parenting: If a father is abusive, a mother must act

By The Washington Post | From Page: B8

 
Horoscopes: March 31, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B8

.

Entertainment

TVGrid March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10

 
TVGrid March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

Michelle Obama declares ‘Black Girls Rock!’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11, 3 Comments

 
.

Sports

Spartans Final Four-bound after 76-70 OT win over Louisville

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Duke back in Final Four after 66-52 win over Gonzaga

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Hamlin wins for 25th time, and fifth time at Martinsville

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Jimmy Walker wins hometown Texas Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Oakland OF Josh Reddick won’t be ready for start of season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

California Chrome heads to Britain, to race at Royal Ascot

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Vettel wins Malaysian GP to end Mercedes streak

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Joe Gibbs on son: most courageous person I’ve been around

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Chodounsky defends slalom title at US Alpine Championships

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

South Carolina earns 1st Final Four berth, beats FSU 80-74

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Turner says Saturday regional finals highest-rated in decade

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Apology for wrong anthem for El Salvador before game in US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Montoya holds off Power to give Penske 1-2 sweep at St. Pete

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Stanford’s Randle chases school scoring record, title at NIT

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Hamlin wins for 25th time, and fifth time at Martinsville

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Cain goes 4 innings in Giants win over LA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Graveman pitches into 7th inning as A’s beat Brewers 7-0

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

.

Business

.

Obituaries

Robert Roberts

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Janice Jewel Thompson

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Peanuts March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Zits March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Blondie March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Pickles March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Get Fuzzy March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Sally Forth March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

For Better or Worse March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baldo March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Garfield March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Dilbert March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baby Blues March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Frank and Ernest March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

B.C. March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Wizard of Id March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Beetle Bailey March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Rose is Rose March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Bridge March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Word Sleuth March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Crossword March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Cryptoquote March 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
B.C. March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Blondie March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Peanuts March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Baldo March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Rose is Rose March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Beetle Bailey March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
For Better or Worse March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Dilbert March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Garfield March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Pickles March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Zits March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Sally Forth March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Get Fuzzy March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Wizard of Id March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Baby Blues March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Frank and Ernest March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Word Sleuth March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

Bridge March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
Sudoku March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

Cryptoquote March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
Crossword March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8