Santa Clara County approves $40M to jumpstart numerous homeless housing sites

Bay Area

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors recently approved millions of dollars in funding to combat the county’s ongoing homeless crisis, paving the way for more homeless housing. 

On Tuesday, county supervisors approved a “Challenge Grant” of up to $40 million to begin developing as many as 16 housing sites and projects for homeless individuals across the county. 

“What I think has been so disheartening for so many people is that as much work that has been done there’s still much work still left to be done,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian. 

“We know that notwithstanding the creation of more permanent, supportive, affordable housing, and the creation of additional shelters, that the number of folks we’ve got who are homeless and out there on the streets continues to grow.”

Santa Clara County Supervisors Otto Lee and Joe Simitian holding a press conference at the LifeMoves site in Mountain View.

The motion was put forth by Supervisors Joe Simitian and Otto Lee and had originally proposed a smaller program of $25 million for 10 sites in response to an announcement from LifeMoves in hopes to identify 10 sites and develop 10 projects. 

Earlier this week, both supervisors held a press conference at the LifeMoves site in Mountain View to show their support and to challenge partners from the public and private sector to join the county in supporting the development of 10 additional transitional housing sites. 

“What we’re doing here in Santa Clara County is asking ourselves what can we try that might be a little more creative and that frankly can help more people,” said Simitian.

“But we’ve also got to change our thinking, if we keep doing what we’re doing we’re going to keep getting what we got and that’s not acceptable.”

According to the county’s most recent homeless census, approximately 9,706 county residents were experiencing homeleness as of 2019, with over 80% who are living unsheltered. 

By contrast, the county’s shelter capacity was at 1,882 beds as of Jan. 2020 and rising to as much as 2,336 during the pandemic. 

The grant money approved by the county will be used to develop more cost-efficient housing solutions like the prefabricated modular housing units, a model pioneered by LifeMoves. 

“It’s a very creative approach, what people think of as containers, these are a little bit more flexible, a little more affordable, and if done right it can be a very flexible approach to site constraints,” said Simitian. 

Inside one of the several units available for unhoused individuals at the LifeMoves site in Mountain View.

Traditional emergency shelters can take years to build and oftentimes at a cost of $400,000 to $800,000 per unit.

According to Aubrey Merriman, CEO of LifeMoves, the organization’s prefabricated modular model costs between $50,000 and $200,000 per unit and can take less than six months to construct. 

The portable units can also be relocated to different sites as needs and circumstances change, and can even be transitioned for permanent housing.

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