Santa Clara County seeks to end family homelessness by 2025
Santa Clara County officials on Monday announced an ambitious plan to house every homeless family in the area, using a large arrival of federal and state resources to take a meaningful bite out of a problem that has plagued the vicinity for years.
The “Heading Home” campaign seeks to house 1,200 families with children in the next year, and 600 yearly thereafter. By 2025, local officials think they can reach “functional zero” — meaning there will be more housing placements obtainable than the number of families who become homeless. As a consequence, families should receive help closest, without having to use prolonged periods in emergency shelters, on the street, inside cars, or in other unsafe situations.
“We really can help all the families,” said Jennifer Loving, CEO of Destination: Home. “All these 600 families that are outside right now, that are experiencing in their cars, experiencing in places they shouldn’t have to sleep. There’s truly an answer coming.”
About 600 homeless families have reached out to the county for help and are waiting for housing placements, Loving said. It’s estimated another 600 families fall into homelessness every year in Santa Clara County, so altogether about 1,200 families could be housed next year.
The vicinity has long struggled with a enormous homelessness crisis that’s become worse in recent years because of a dearth of resources. With a new push by both Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration and President Joe Biden to tackle homelessness, and bolstered by additional funding made obtainable during the COVID-19 pandemic, county leaders for the first time feel confident they can finally make major inroads in addressing the problem — at the minimum for families.
The American Rescue Plan — Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus package — produced a new Emergency Housing Voucher that local governments can use to help individuals and families who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or fleeing domestic violence pay rent for up to 10 years. Santa Clara County and the city of San Jose together received more than 1,000 of those federal vouchers and plan to save 600 for families, leaving the other 400 for other uses.
“No family should be sleeping outside on the streets,” county Supervisor Cindy Chavez said Monday during a joint news conference with San Jose city officials. “Every child in our community deserves to thrive, and that begins with a home.”
The board of supervisors is set to approve a report on the state of family homelessness in the county and solutions on Tuesday, and then revisit its progress in November.
The city and county plan to expand their rapid rehousing program — which provides rental subsidies and other sets to sustain new renters — to serve an additional 200 homeless families per year. Officials plan to reduce the number of families that end up homeless by expanding their Homelessness Prevention System to serve 2,500 households by 2025.
The county expects another 1,000 affordable apartments for families to come online within the next five years under Measure A — the $950 million affordable housing bond Santa Clara County voters approved in 2016.
Officials also are applying for state Homekey funds for nine new affordable housing projects in San Jose, Santa Clara, Palo Alto and Mountain View. One would turn the 150-room Residence Inn in San Jose into homeless housing specifically for families.
“It’s going to be profound for the lives of the children,” said Preston Prince, executive director of the county’s Housing Authority. “It’s going to be profound for the community.”
The plan echoes a goal Newsom set in May of ending family homelessness throughout the state within five years. Newsom hypothesizedv spending $1.85 billion in new housing for homeless families and $1.6 billion in rental sustain and homelessness prevention for families.
But the final budget approved by the state legislature and signed by Newsom this summer diverted some of that money away from families and into general homelessness funds for local governments to use as they wish. The budget nevertheless includes some family funds — including $190 million this year and next year to help homeless families obtain and continue housing — but falls short of Newsom’s lofty goals.
Challenges keep at the county level, in addition. already when a family or individual receives a housing voucher, it can be difficult in today’s hot rental market to find a landlord willing to accept it. But the new federal vouchers come with funding to let local governments help recipients find housing, in addition as to help recipients pay security deposits and conquer other barriers, Prince said.
And homelessness remains a dire crisis for single adults, elderly adults and couples without children.
But if Santa Clara County can eliminate family homelessness, more successes may follow, Prince said.
“If we’re able to as a community effectively demonstrate that by this alignment, by the public investment, that we can get to functional zero for families with children, I think it creates the pathway and the confidence and the belief that we can address other demographics within the unhoused,” he said. “It builds upon each other so success begets more success, I think.”
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