Los Gatos Weekly Times
Town to install portable toilet for unhoused residents
Councilmembers also OK hotel voucher program, extension of Shower Ministry
After the Los Gatos Town Council allocated $50,000 to provide services for homeless residents in town earlier this year, community partners got to work.
Local faith group leaders who had been providing a shower service for unhoused Los Gatos residents worked with the town staff to use some of those funds to keep the program going for another year and a half. They helped town staff find a location for a temporary public restroom while the town works to build a permanent one.
Three hotels in the area also stepped up to initiate a a voucher program for homeless residents to stay in their empty rooms during extreme weather.
“We would not be where we are without our wonderful local faith community and local hotels,” town manager Laurel Prevetti said. “Their collaboration, compassion and commitment to our unhoused residents is truly heartwarming, and I have to say the collaboration and idea generation and problem solving has just been exceptional.”
The local faith community is very familiar with the local homeless population. Leaders at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, which provides weekly meals and grocery bags full of healthy food, said there are approximately 16 unhoused residents in town.
The town awarded $10,000 to the Shower Ministry, which operates out of the Los Gatos United Methodist Church and offers weekly showers. With the additional funds, the program can run through Dec. 5, 2024.
Town staff are also setting up a temporary, handicap accessible portable toilet and handwashing station in the town parking lot on South Santa Cruz Avenue, as a placeholder for a permanent public restroom in Town Plaza Park. Prevetti said the restroom is on the town's list of upcoming construction projects and is in the design phase, and estimates it will be built sometime in the next few years.
The temporary restroom is due to be set up some time this summer.
When the region was
pummeled with an unprecedented amount of rain this winter, the homeless population was vulnerable to flooding, hypothermia and winds. Local advocates pushed for hotel vouchers to give the population a safe place to stay when conditions are extreme.
The Los Gatos Lodge, Best Western and Garden Inn volunteered to open their rooms to homeless residents who qualify for the program. Town staff said around 10 of Los Gatos' homeless residents qualify for the program, which screened them for their behavior, ability to follow rules and demonstrated respect for others and their property.
The voucher program would be invoked only during extreme emergency conditions, like high heat above 100 degrees, extreme cold
under 44 degrees, poor air quality above 150 on the air quality index or medical needs for a short-term stay.
Drugs and alcohol are prohibited during the hotel stays, no additional guests are allowed and homeless residents must follow guest rules at the hotels.
Prevetti said she is looking for a group to facilitate the program before summer's extreme heat kicks in and the potential for poor air quality increases with the approach of wildfire season.
The town council voted 4-1 to approve the temporary bathroom and hotel voucher program, with councilmember Matthew Hudes dissenting despite supporting the cause, citing liability concerns.
In 2021, Town Council adopted a resolution in support of the county's community plan to end homelessness. Council set helping unhoused residents as one of its strategic priorities for the first time earlier this
year. The council voted to double its initial $25,000 contribution to homeless services to $50,000 earlier this year, which comes out of its federal pandemic relief funds.
The town will spend $30,000 on the temporary bathroom, $10,000 on the shower ministry , and $10,000 on the hotel voucher program. Local advocates say more funds are needed to support the hotel program. The $10,000 set aside for the program would give 10 people less than a week in a hotel every year.
“I recognize that town government can't do everything, so the fact that we have such dedicated partners in the community that sort of pulled some of the puzzle pieces together and gives us an opportunity to do some work that pulls together the good work that's already happening in the community is really helpful and really gratifying,” said Mayor Maria Ristow.