This is an abridged version of a story, written by Leigh Flayton and Jenny Quill, that originally appeared in the 2019 SVCF Spring magazine.
John Duckworth couldn’t believe his luck when he moved into his new home in San Jose’s Alum Rock neighborhood eight years ago. After a lifetime spent struggling with homelessness, he was finally the resident of a clean and affordable Section 8 apartment with 13 windows and a “beautiful view overlooking the foothills.”
This is the nicest place I’ve ever lived,” says Duckworth, a 65-year-old former meth addict and alcoholic who celebrated his 11th year of sobriety in May 2019. “I’d never wanted anything more in my life. It’s real quiet, and there are no gunshots or broken glass, no graffiti or anything like that.”
Duckworth is well aware that he’s one of the lucky ones. He was able to find housing he could afford on a small income, enabling him to stay close to his disabled brother, who is nearby in assisted living. He doesn’t own a car, but is close to the bus and light rail, making it possible to travel to his various jobs, one of which is at the Recovery Café, a center serving people who have suffered from addiction, homelessness and mental health issues.
But as everyone in the Bay Area knows, as job growth continues to boom in Silicon Valley, the region has failed to create enough new housing to keep up with demand — let alone keep prices reasonable for extremely low-, low- and middle-income people. Housing success stories like Duckworth’s are far too rare, and so the Bay Area has one of the largest homeless populations in the country.
SVCF is committed to finding bold, collaborative solutions to the housing and homelessness crises, which were decades in the making. Through public advocacy, grantmaking, strategic partnerships and research, SVCF is working to build vibrant communities and opportunities for all in Silicon Valley.