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Is there a homeless problem in Facebook's back yard, as Richard Ojeda said?
A man stands outside his tent in San Francisco in 2016 in a neighborhood with many homeless people. (AP) A man stands outside his tent in San Francisco in 2016 in a neighborhood with many homeless people. (AP)

A man stands outside his tent in San Francisco in 2016 in a neighborhood with many homeless people. (AP)

By Al Bernardi February 20, 2019
By Samantha Patrick February 20, 2019
By Davis Versprille February 20, 2019

Richard Ojeda, a former West Virginia state senator who was briefly a Democratic presidential candidate, focused his message as a candidate on the fate of the working class and the sick.

In a Jan. 8 tweet, Ojeda said that if you "go 1 mile from the headquarters of Facebook you will find a homeless shelter with a 70 person waiting list."

Is this accurate? We were unable to either confirm or debunk one part of the assertion, about the 70-person waiting list, so we’re not putting this to the Truth-O-Meter. But we decided to take a closer look at the rest of the statement.

The federal Housing and Urban Development Department estimates that California accounts for a quarter of the entire country’s homeless population. And when we reached out to Ojeda for more details, his staff provided the name of the shelter Ojeda was referring to.

They said Ojeda was referencing the homeless population in Menlo Park, Calif., a city located about an hour from San Francisco and half an hour from Santa Clara. San Francisco and Santa Clara rank as two of the four cities in California with the largest homeless populations.

Ojeda’s team said they were referring to a facility called WeHOPE. The distance from WeHOPE to Facebook’s headquarters at 1 Hacker Way is 1.9 miles, according to Google Maps.

Alicia Garcia, associate director of WeHOPE, described Ojeda’s tweet as slightly inaccurate.

Garcia said that WeHOPE rents out a space in their building to Samaritan House South, a homeless services provider. One of Samaritan House’s missions is to provide assessments for homeless people in order to get them into nearby shelters whenever spaces open up.

Samaritan House South works with three homeless shelters in the area, rather than one, so anyone on a waiting list could be placed in any of the three shelters. We reached out to Samaritan House South several times to confirm the typical size the waiting list in recent months but did not hear back.

Here’s the bottom line: Ojeda garbled a few of the details, including the distance from Facebook, the description of WeHOPE as a shelter, and the number of homeless shelters involved. But his general point -- that a sizable homeless community exists not far from the headquarters of a major American corporate headquarters -- has merit.

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Is there a homeless problem in Facebook's back yard, as Richard Ojeda said?