Leslye Corsiglia has been working in affordable housing since the age of 18. She is currently the Director of the Housing Department of the City of San Jose, is on the board of Destination: Home, and is an expert at luring back talented people from the Belizean jungle. This week she shared with us about her thoughts on ending homelessness in Santa Clara County.
Q: Tell me about homelessness in Silicon Valley.
Leslye: Silicon Valley faces a unique situation because we lost a lot of middle-income jobs when manufacturing went away. Our median income here now is $105,000—-more than twice the national median. So we have this large population of high earners, and each high-skilled job demands services provided by lower-income folks. For example, engineers may need housekeepers, landscapers, beauty salon workers and retail employees.
But a retail employee makes minimum wage, which may come out to more like $17,000 a year. That isn’t enough to rent the average 2-bedroom apartment—which now costs more than $2,000 a month, let alone pay for food and medical care. This low-income population may wind up working two jobs, living in overcrowded apartments, and driving unreasonably long distances to work. Plus there are people who are unable to work, on fixed incomes from disability for example, who are making even less. When there is less affordability, it leads to more overcrowing, with tenants living in unsafe or unsuitable spaces such as garages and basements, because of the inadequate supply of housing-—in the worst case scenario, they can become homeless.
Q: How are you involved with Housing 1000?
Leslye: I’ve been with the City for twenty-one years now, so I was part of the process that led to the creation of Destination: Home, which gave birth to Housing 1000. Jen Loving was actually considering permanently relocating to Belize at the time—-she had a house, and everything—-but then I invited her to come get involved in the process here. Happily she was able to come take the lead at Destination: Home.
Housing 1000 represents the cumulative work of many years. It may have started in earnest last June, but we’ve been working to change the way our system responds to homelessness for over ten years. We realized that in order to succeed we need the partnership of the private sector, the County, the City, and the greater community. The City of San Jose is just one part of the equation.
Q: What has been an obstacle to you in your efforts to help end homelessness?
Leslye: I’d say money has been the biggest issue. With Redevelopment gone, and cuts to other State and federal programs, it’s a perfect storm for affordable housing. We have the passion, commitment, and the will to change, but we simply need more resources.
People who want to help can call their legislator, volunteer, or even donate if they can. I really believe that everyone can do something.
Q: What does Housing 1000 mean to you?
Leslye: A lot of work! San Jose is one of the top five most expensive areas to live in America. Housing cost may not be the cause of every single person’s homelessness, but it is a major impediment to solving the problem of homelessness. People may say “oh, the homeless actually want to live on the streets,” but you can’t really say that unless we’re able to offer them real alternatives.
I think Housing 1000 is a creative approach to meeting our goals, and giving people real options. Everyone deserves a decent place to live, and Housing 1000 is working towards making that dream a reality.
- Why Everybody is Obsessed with Housing First: A Primer (housing1000.wordpress.com)
- The City’s Role in Affordable Housing (slideshare.net)
- Housing 1000 April Newsletter: Ending Homelessness with Crowdfunding, Celebrations, and More! (housing1000.wordpress.com)
- Homeless cancer patient living in her car in San Jose (housing1000.wordpress.com)
- Interview with Frederick Ferrer, CEO of The Health Trust (housing1000.wordpress.com)
- National Alliance to End Homelessness Releases Report on Elderly Homelessness (prweb.com)