Tuesday, January 27, 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

 
Health officials report 1st Solano flu death

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3, 5 Comments | Gallery

 
 
 
American Legion Post schedules head-shaving fundraiser

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A6

Rush Ranch seeks docents

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A2

 
Dramas, thrillers lead week’s box office openings

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B8

Vacaville Toastmasters welcome guests

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6

 
Kroc Health Fair offers free screenings

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Chipotle fundraiser to benefit Armijo newspaper

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Vacaville council eyes earlier start time

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page:

 
.

US / World

Facebook suffers outage affecting users worldwide

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Private wells in California farm area show high uranium

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
 
Law enforcement wants popular police-tracking app disabled

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Cuban youth build secret computer network despite Wi-Fi ban

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Seekers of the Hollywood Sign disrupt nearby neighborhood

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
2 small planes crash-land off Hawaii; all aboard survive

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Report: State worker sent alarming notes before gun arrest

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
 
Dwindling group of survivors to mark Auschwitz 70 years on

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2, 1 Comment | Gallery

New Jersey’s Christie launches political action committee

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
US drone strikes resume in Yemen despite turmoil

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Monster snowstorm swirls into densely populated Northeast US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Man takes responsibility for drone over White House

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
.

Opinion

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Jan. 27, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
.

Entertainment

Petty earns writing credit for Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
National Cowboy Poetry Gathering begins in northeast Nevada

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Trainor and Styles write a duet about heartbreak

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Emma Watson to star in live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
SAG Awards win sends ‘Birdman’ Oscar hopes soaring

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Cumberbatch says sorry for calling black actors ‘colored’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
A murder at the edge of the world takes ‘Fortitude’ to crack

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Lawyers: Melissa Rivers files lawsuit in mother Joan’s death

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Sundance Watch: ‘Cobain’ premieres, women talk Hollywood

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

TVGrid Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
.

Sports

Manfred knows he’ll get hit as commish _ his name is on ball

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
NASCAR to leave championship format unchanged in 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Kobe Bryant to have shoulder surgery, likely out for season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Tim Brown hopes 6th time is charm in Hall of Fame vote

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Raiders sign Charles Woodson for 2015 season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Rams notify St. Louis they’ll go year-to-year on dome lease

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Gamecocks still No. 1; Chattanooga joins women’s hoops poll

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Scott Dixon shines in masterful final drive in Rolex win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
LeBron, Cavs climb in standings, back in title conversation

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Capitals among East contenders; West race too tight to call

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Playoff not interested in moving semis of New Year’s Eve

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Fireworks help celebrate Venus Williams’ Australian Open run

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
US women to host New Zealand, Ireland, Mexico, South Korea

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

NBA D-League All-Star events set for Feb. 15 in Brooklyn

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
AP Source: Los Angeles Kings release Mike Richards

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Hope Solo could be left off US World Cup roster

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Employers: Agreement made on key issue in port labor dispute

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Lyft cars doing away with pink furry mustache

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4, 1 Comment

 
Hard Rock (again) dips toe into Atlantic City casino market

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

US stock market finishes with small gains

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
IBM disputes report that big layoffs coming

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Union says California Kaiser nurses reach contract agreement

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Boeing, SpaceX will beat Russia on price for astronaut rides

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

CBO: Deficit to shrink to lowest level of Obama presidency

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Eurozone looks for dialogue after stunning Greece elections

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

S&P downgrades Russia credit rating to junk

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Obituaries

Donald Wesley Johnson

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Rose is Rose Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Get Fuzzy Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Beetle Bailey Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C. Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Cryptoquote Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
For Better or Worse Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Dilbert Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Bridge Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Garfield Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Crossword Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baby Blues Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baldo Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Word Sleuth Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Frank and Ernest Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Sudoku Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Blondie Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Peanuts Jan 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4