The economic disparity is surreal in Silicon Valley, as young millionaires dine on expensive meals and purchase expensive products without hesitation, thousands of families in the same area can’t afford a home. Many of the homeless in Silicon Valley work regular jobs, in some cases serving the very people whose sky-high net worth is the reason housing has become unaffordable for so many. Homeless counts taken earlier this year reveal that there are 168,000 homeless people in California, Oregon and Washington, which is 20,000 more than were counted just two years ago. Some of these homeless people are retail clerks, plumbers, janitors, and even teachers who go to work, sleep where they can and buy gym memberships for a place to shower. Albert Brown III, a 46-year-old security officer who recently signed a lease for half of a $3,400 two-bedroom unit in Half Moon Bay, states:
I can’t miss a minute. If I miss a minute or a shift? No way, man. A week? Forget it, it’s over. It’s all downhill from there. It’s a sad choice. I have to decide whether to be homeless or penniless, right?
There is no firm estimate on the number of people that live in vehicles in Silicon Valley, but the problem is pervasive and apparent to anyone who sees RVs lining public streets. For instance, the median rent in the San Jose metro area is $3,500 a month, however, the median wage is $12 an hour for jobs in food service and $19 an hour in health care support, which are wages that won’t even cover housing costs. According to a study by personal finance website GoBankingRates, the minimum annual salary needed to live comfortably in San Jose is $87,000. In response to the growing number of RVs parked in public streets, some cities have begun cracking down by banning certain vehicles from parking in certain areas and/or from parking for an extended amount of time. It certainly is sad hearing some of these hardship stories, but this upends the stereotypical view of people living on the streets as unemployed.