WELCOME TO 'THE JUNGLE': The Largest Homeless Camp In The Country Is Right In The Heart Of Silicon Valley

This story is a part of Business Insider’s “Homeless In Silicon Valley” series reported by Robert Johnson and edited by Chris C. Anderson. Jill Klausen and graphic designer Mike Nudelman contributed to this series.

The Jungle is the largest of many Silicon Valley homeless encampments, and the 65 acres bordering Coyote Creek in San Jose can be home to up to 175 people at a time.

From kids to convicts to mums and dads and the mentally ill, The Jungle is a desperate mix of people out of whatever options they might have once had.

When Business Insider visited The Jungle over the course of a week in mid-July the city was getting ready to clear the homeless out again after they had just settled back in from a previous eviction.

It’s a back-and-forth with no easy answers as Silicon Valley’s cost of living increases, but the jobs and affordable housing needed to keep its poorest residents inside and off the streets remains unseen.

More than 7,600 homeless people are living in Silicon Valley on any given night of the year.

More than three-quarters of them sleep on the streets or in camps.

With up to 175 residents at a time, The Jungle is the largest homeless camp in Silicon Valley.

Business Insider visited The Jungle several times in mid-July to talk to the people who live here and see what their lives are like.

There is no 'type' of person who lives in The Jungle.

Officials say only the 'chronically homeless' settle in places like this in Silicon Valley, but that's not true.

For some people this is the last stop on a decline that started with losing a job or fighting an illness.

The woman who lives here lost her business and has a daughter who often lives in a neighbouring camp.

The man who lives here was a union carpenter.

The woman who lives here is 56 years old.

Some people have lived in the jungle for years.

GiGi got lucky and has moved into an apartment since we met her in July, but she was a long-term resident of The Jungle.

Jeri found a burnt corpse along the river in The Jungle and says it's not uncommon to hear threats of 'burning people out' of their tents while they're asleep inside.

She says a lot of camps are booby-trapped.

'I could hear them digging holes in the middle of the night,' Jeri says of her time in The Jungle.

Digging here can be to hide things from thieves or to bury a beloved pet.

Or to expand a living space.

Mama Red has a daughter who intended to give birth in camp and she's added children's toys and additional tents to her site for them.

Giggles has lived on the street most of her life since she turned 18.

Patricia built this underground room for protection against intruders.

A lot of time and effort has gone into many of these Jungle encampments. San Jose city officials call this type of semi-permanent camp an 'entrenchment.'

People here feel any type of barrier protecting them from their more unstable neighbours is simply a good thing.

The scores of homeowners in nearby neighborhoods are concerned the longer people stay, the greater the chance Jungle fires could spread to their homes, as this one nearly did in July.

The stream that cuts through the middle of The Jungle has little water in mid-July.

Everything is brittle and dry.

What water there is often comes from drainage pipes.

Though with few other options, people still often bathe and do their laundry in the creek.

There is not much residents here can find for work aside from collecting cans and bottles.

Or stripping wire for copper to sell at scrap yards.

Empty rubber housings from old power lines are all over The Jungle.

When Troy the carpenter couldn't find work that didn't stop him from building this tree house.

This homeless mason used his job skills to build a set of stairs from his camp to the creek.

Just days after we visited, the city came through and cleared out The Jungle again.

Tons of trash was removed.

And all the camps that you see in this story were torn down.

The city has to do something to address the health and safety concerns brought on by people living here.

Though officials know residents will be back since there's really nowhere else for them to go.

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