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January 2, 2018 > Mayor creates Comprehensive Homeless Strategy

Mayor creates Comprehensive Homeless Strategy

By Rhoda J. Shapiro

Homelessness is an issue that weighs heavily on Milpitas Mayor Rich TranÕs mind. At the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, he has served as a medical Social Worker for the past three years. He works in the Emergency Department, where he interacts with scores of homeless people weekly; some greet him by name.

ÒWe canÕt ignore folks struggling in Milpitas,Ó said Mayor Tran. "Me, growing up hereÉ my family struggled. And it was the community, the village, that raised me and helped my family out. ItÕs that same concept IÕd like to bring to City Hall in terms of a Comprehensive Homeless Strategy.Ó

The first Milpitas High School graduate to be elected mayor, Tran is unique as a public servant in terms of his proximity to the homeless population. He sees the day-to-day struggles that people on the streets endure. This has driven him to do all he can to ease and eradicate homelessness in Milpitas.

"The school district just did research that showed there were around 130 students in Milpitas that had non-permanent housing. Folks are doubling up; theyÕre living in cars, they're living in hotels. ThatÕs 130 out of 10,000 students. That hurts my heart so much. And those are just the ones accounted for.Ó

A lack of affordable housing options, coupled with the high cost of living in the Bay Area, has left Santa Clara County residents with few options; Mayor TranÕs Comprehensive Homeless Strategy includes a host of proposals to help families that need support during hard times.

"IÕd like to see places of worship have a Conditional Use Permit, so that registered Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) students and their families can reside at our places of worship for up to 30 days,Ó said Mayor Tran. "I feel like in 30 days, the right community resources or social services can be applied, and maybe folks in tough situations can transition into something better.Ó

Along with this idea, the mayorÕs plan also includes ideas like hiring someone full-time to address homelessness, as well as easing regulations for Ògranny units,Ó which are add-on residential structures. HeÕd also like to collaborate with nonprofits like Downtown Streets Team, which is leading the way in terms of arming homeless individuals with the resources to rebuild their lives.

"In Milpitas, weÕre down to about 66 homeless individuals,Ó said Tran. "But thatÕs 66 too many. I think we can be a leader in the county if we can get that number down.Ó

At a City Council meeting held in November of 2017, Mayor Tran was set to deliver his homeless strategy presentation, until Councilmember Bob Nu–ez expressed disinterest in hearing it, accusing Mayor Tran of making a Òbid for attention for re-election.Ó Nu–ez added an item onto the Consent Calendar that would approve four hours of City staff time, enabling the staff to do research and prepare their own strategy, preventing Mayor Tran from delivering his own presentation.

ÒIn politics, they try to chop you down. It happens everywhere. I was shocked when that happened. I still wanted to present it. I had put in so much workÉ hours. IÕm here every night until 12 a.m. or 1 a.m. ItÕs like finals week of college every day. ItÕs been like that every day for a year,Ó said Mayor Tran, who later found out that not allowing him to give his presentation was against procedures outlined in RobertÕs Rules of Order.

Mayor Tran, who is running for re-election in 2018, seems energized by continuing the work he started when he first took office. His vision is one of inclusion, whereby all residents of Milpitas feel heard and valued. He calls his office Òthe PeopleÕs House,Ó and invites residents to visit and voice their concerns. His motto ÒMilpitas Families First,Ó which he ran on during the election in 2016, is still central in his decision-making process.

In City Hall, from the window of Mayor TranÕs office, he can see Milpitas High School, along with the home he grew up in, and the home he lives in now.

"I used to ride my bike across this whole valley and say Ôhi' to people,Ó said Tran. "ItÕs pretty cool that my view now is where I grew up. IÕm just thankful for the opportunity to serve."

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