The Jungle: Thousands of Homeless People Live in Shantytowns at the Epicenter of High-Tech, Super-Rich Silicon Valley
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A few camps are visible from the street, with bright blue tarps peeking through trees. But for the most part, the Jungle is a hidden world, a village of Silicon Valley’s untouchables complete with “good” neighborhoods and “bad” ones.
Driven to homelessness by job losses, addictions, afflictions, bankruptcies, or a combination of catastrophies, most of the Jungle’s residents are mired at the bottom of the economic heap. (Some do work full-time, but say they simply cannot afford to pay rent.) They range in age from late teens to their 70s, with most between 40 and 50 years old. Almost everyone is from San Jose or nearby towns. Those who’ve been homeless for years have no income, no prospects and nothing left to lose—except their campsites.
Photo: Baby the cat poses in front of tarps in the Jungle.
For many people here, the only thing worse than living in the Jungle would be not to live here—that is, if the county wrecking crews come calling, as happens once or twice a year. Encampments are dismantled and the residents get shooed away. But they start coming back within hours.
Photo: People create beauty however they can. These flowers are part of Mama Red's border garden: she says they will live forever.
Anna Davis, a 46-year-old San Jose native, has become an expert at creating a living space in the Jungle, having lost everything she had to dump trucks at least four times in three years.
"I found all of what I have,” she said, proudly showing off her camp. It is a lovingly designed hut made of different woods, hard by Coyote Creek. Davis has woven fallen tree branches into a border fence, added stepping stones for a walkway and cushioned her mattress with stuffed animals and pillows (all things she has found).
Photo: Anna Davis has been a resident of the Jungle for five or six years.
Davis lives in a “neighborhood” where those who use drugs tend to gather. So does Yolanda Gutierrez, who is 39 years old. A San Jose native, Gutierrez, a mother of three young adults, said she ended up in the Jungle because of her “bad choices,” namely a boyfriend who introduced her to methamphetamine. Her children now live in Mexico with her parents while Gutierrez recovers from a stroke she suffered two weeks ago.