San Jose opens first tiny home community for homeless

In San Jose alone, more than 6,000 residents sleep in cars, shelters or on the streets every night.

After making your way past the 10-foot gate surrounding the property, 40 tiny homes — 80-square-feet rectangular structures with just enough room for a single bed, desk, shelf and air conditioning and heating system — are in neat rows with gravel paths, lined with potted plants, leading from one home to another.

…The community is open to people who are part of the county’s rapid rehousing voucher program and are in the process of securing permanent housing but need a place to stay in the interim to avoid homelessness. The city hopes to serve 120 residents on the VTA site during the first year, aiming to rotate 40 residents into permanent housing every four months.

…Only eight of the 40 sleeping cabins are currently occupied.

City officials attribute that to the stringent criteria placed on eligible residents, including a thorough background check, and the task of having to track people down.

“People get lost in the system,” Jacky Morales-Ferrand, San Jose housing director, said in an interview following the event. “And, that’s actually one of the benefits of creating these interim sites, because as we create housing opportunities for people to move in, we know that we can connect them very quickly.”

…In addition to the cabins, the community features shared bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities, a kitchen space and common areas with computers, internet access and job boards. The community is protected around the clock by a security guard who sits in a patrol station next to the front gate.

HomeFirst not only operates the community but provides a wide range of services to residents, healthcare assistance, personal finance advice and career readiness training.

To encourage residents to work with the organization to obtain permanent housing, they are each required to pay 10 percent of their income — or $20 if they’re not employed — for the first six months. Afterward, the rent will increase by 10 percent every six months, capping at 30 percent.

San Jose opens first tiny home community for homeless


Orphan wells: Canada’s struggling oil industry leaves thousands abandoned

Greg Latimer’s ranch near Sounding Lake, Alberta, has 4,000 acres, 350 cattle — and more than a dozen idle or abandoned oil and gas wells.

Latimer, who took over the family ranch in the southeastern part of the oil-rich province in 2011, worries about leaks contaminating the groundwater and soil. He believes his cows have fallen ill after drinking from puddles near the wells. He and his partner, Marva Coltman, get headaches from the odors that some of them emit.

Neither Latimer, his father nor his grandfather were given a choice about whether to let oil and gas companies onto their property.

…“My grandfather came here in 1911 in the middle of the country to make a homestead,” Latimer said. “These guys came here and destroyed it. It isn’t fair.”

…[The] government slashed municipal property taxes on shallow gas wells last year by 35 percent. Some operators have stopped paying municipal property taxes to the tune of $129.8 million.

Under provincial law, oil and gas companies are responsible for plugging defunct wells and restoring the environment to its pre-drilling state. When the operators are bankrupt or insolvent, the wells are transferred to the industry-funded Orphan Well Association, which is tasked with decommissioning them.

As the energy sector has struggled, the association’s inventory has ballooned, from 162 wells in 2014 to 3,406 today.

…And the number could skyrocket, soon. Last year, both Trident Exploration and Houston Oil & Gas bit the dust, leaving behind a combined 6,100 wells and a $307.9 million cleanup bill. 

…As of December 2019, the energy regulator had $170.3 million to clean up potential oil and gas liabilities estimated at more than $22.5 billion, the figures show.

Orphan wells: Canada’s struggling oil industry leaves thousands abandoned – The Washington Post


Trump Administration Suspends New Yorkers From Trusted Traveler Programs

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says it will no longer allow New York state residents to enroll in programs intended to expedite international travel because of a state law that blocks immigration authorities from accessing motor vehicle records.

…In a statement released Thursday, the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, pointed out that more than a dozen other states and the District of Columbia share similar laws. As for New York itself, the top prosecutor vowed that the state “will not back down.”

“New Yorkers,” James said, “will not be targeted or bullied by an authoritarian thug.”

Trump Administration Suspends New Yorkers From Trusted Traveler Programs : NPR


The consolations of rail travel

Trains may once have accelerated life but in our digital world they have the opposite effect: they slow one down. To see the landscape rolling by, or at night to see the lights passing and feel the wheels turning beneath one, is to travel consciously, mindful of the distance one is covering. 

…Trains can be fast, but there is nonetheless a meditative quality to travelling by them. Not always, of course: a train laden with boozy commuters is no one’s idea of a sanctuary. But take a long-distance train. …Wait for the hubbub of people finding their seats and storing their luggage to die down. Gaze out of the window as the landscape, dull or beautiful, moves by and you will find yourself in a tranquil middle space: the hills, roads and fields outside stimulating enough to provoke thought without being so distracting as to interrupt it.

The consolations of rail travel