The cost of living in northern California is so high that children headed to school the next day must spend their nights struggling to find a place to sleep. That’s because one-third of Silicon Valley’s schoolchildren are homeless.
Nationally, children are often homeless because they run away from violence in their home or they’ve aged out of the foster-care system. In Silicon Valley’s case, the problem is the cost of living, The Guardian reports. A full 1,147 children are defined as homeless. Many of them end up mostly sharing homes with friends or family members because their parents can’t afford housing. Others live in RVs and shelters.
The most recent national data, from 2013 outlines a record level of homelessness for 2.5 million children, while another 15 million children live in poverty, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty and the American Institute of Research. That’s more than 1 in 5 children in the United States who go to bed hungry, don’t have clean clothes for school or struggle to find a place to sleep — despite record levels stock market.
In August, a housing official penned a scathing resignation letter because her family’s income wasn’t high enough to live in the very city she represents.
“After many years of trying to make it work in Palo Alto, my husband and I cannot see a way to stay in Palo Alto and raise a family here,” wrote Kate Vershov Downing.
East Palo Alto was once the epicenter for African-American and Latino communities in the area. Yet, as the tech bubble grew so employee salaries and with it the housing costs.
“Now you have Caucasians moving back into the community, you have Facebookers and Googlers and Yahooers,” Pastor Paul Bains, a local leader, told The Guardian. “That’s what’s driven the cost back up. Before, houses were rarely over $500,000. And now, can you find one under $750,000? You probably could, but it’s a rare find.”
Rent prices aren’t any better for those that can’t afford to own a home. The average one-bedroom apartment in East Palo Alto rents for more than $2,200 each month. There’s no way to afford it if a person makes $15 an hour. Add childcare at $11 an hour and it’s impossible.
The Guardian tells the story of the Chavez family — displaced after their father was injured and prevented him from working. They now live in a $1,000 RV. The main part has two beds, the refrigerator is broken so they can’t store any fresh food and windows are sealed with tape. They shower at the YMCA and use the toilet as little as possible to save space.
Some families told The Guardian that they wanted to move to cheaper real estate markets like California’s Central Valley but there are no jobs there. Even the principal of one East Palo Alto school is a 47-year-old woman who was forced to live in a home with three other educators because her income isn’t high enough to afford an apartment of her own much less a house.
“I was done with roommates in college,” she said. “Not once did I even think I would live with others unless it was a significant other.”
For those that can’t even afford an RV or a portion of an apartment, there’s what the New York Times called “Hotel 22.” It’s a bus line that runs 24 hours a day 7 days a week between San Jose and Palo Alto. Those who don’t have a place to sleep at night will pay the fare to ride the bus so they can get 90 minutes of sleep before they’re forced to get off and get back on again.
Walmart parking lots are filled with people living in cars or RVs. Makeshift shantytowns have been set up with tents and tarps among the 75 wooded acres off Interstate 101 in San Jose. It’s the largest homeless encampment in the area, AlterNet reports. In 2013, the area dropped to freezing temperatures overnight and five people didn’t make it, freezing to death on the streets of San Jose. This exists while tech companies are scoring millions in profits and venture capitalists are doling out cash to new start-ups.
The Guardian reports that Facebook has announced it is committing $18.5 million to create affordable housing in the area. Their CEO and his wife have funded programs in the area that help increase literacy and leadership training for those trying to get higher paying jobs.
You can watch a video below of the “Hotel 22” bus line: