SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — Recent efforts to end homelessness in Santa Clara County are proving to be effective.
New data released by the county and Destination: Home reveal that the county is experiencing a reduction in the number of people who are becoming homeless in a given year — a 33% decrease since January 2020.
According to the county, homelessness remains the most urgent humanitarian crisis in the community but recent data trends demonstrate the success of long-term solutions to prevent and end homelessness.
“We have a strong, clear, and comprehensive response to end and prevent homelessness. When tackling one of the biggest community challenges of our time, we must continue to make bold moves that are grounded in the strategies of the Community Plan to address the root causes of homelessness,” said Consuelo Hernández, Director of the County of Santa Clara Office of Supportive Housing.
“We continually evaluate the performance of the supportive housing system to inform changes and make improvements in how we provide services. This is how we ensure we are actually disrupting cycles of homelessness.”
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the county adopted the 2020-2025 Community Plan to End Homeless, which focuses on systemic factors to address the root causes of homelessness by expanding the county’s supportive housing system and continuing to support the many programs and services for people who are currently homeless.
According to the county’s progress report on the plan, nearly 6,000 people have exited homelessness by being permanently housed in Santa Clara County since January 2020.
More than 96% of people who have been connected to permanent supportive housing remain in their homes for more than a year.
Year-round temporary shelter capacity has increased by almost 20% to 2,227 beds since January 2020, including 100 new interim units in Mountain View.
“82% of the nearly 6,000 people permanently housed are San Jose residents, showing real value in our coordinated efforts to create new housing opportunities and prevent additional experiences of homelessness,” said Jacky Morales-Ferrand, Director of the San Jose Housing Department.
“The Community Plan to End Homelessness serves as a strong roadmap, which will continue to guide our work creating more deeply affordable housing while also addressing the immediate needs of our at-risk and unsheltered neighbors.”
Over the last two years, several efforts to combat homelessness have made significant progress.
According to the new data, permanent housing production has increased with 830 new homes in nine developments funded by the Measure A affordable housing bond that are now open to 1,640 formerly homeless and low-income residents.
Eleven more housing projects, slated to add more than 1,200 affordable homes, are currently under construction — with seven scheduled to open this year.
Recently the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved six additional developments, adding 758 new homes — totaling 4,441 units backed by Measure A.
The county’s Homelessness Prevention System has also grown to prevent homelessness for more than 2,000 households a year, moving closer to the Community Plan goal of serving 2,500 households per year by 2025.
According to the county, 91% of these households remained stably housed for at least two years, with the average household requiring about $5,000 in assistance.
The system was able to quickly deploy special COVID-19 financial and rental assistance to nearly 20,000 additional households in need to avoid eviction during the pandemic.
“It is encouraging and exciting that we are continuing to invest in programs to prevent homelessness,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, an architect of the $950-million Measure A Affordable Housing Bond passed by voters in 2016.
“We must make sure our residents have the prevention resources they need so they don’t become homeless in the first place.”
Homelessness still prevalent despite progress
Despite the progress to combat the county’s homeless crisis, there are still many residents who are experiencing homelessness.
For every two homeless individuals connected to housing, three more are experiencing homelessness for the first time
The county said that it needs additional funding support from Federal, State, and local governments.
The new data points to additional forces such as local NIMBY opposition and burdensome approval process substitutionally increasing how long it takes to build new housing.
Recently, Santa Clara community members strongly disapproved of having a Homekey project built in their neighborhood — the project was ultimately voted down by city leaders.
“The rates of homelessness we’re witnessing today are decades in the making and felt disproportionately by people of color, caused by a severe lack of home building and wage stagnation for our lowest-income workers,” said Jennifer Loving, CEO of Destination: Home.
“Ending homelessness will remain an uphill battle until we address these systemic issues at the root of the crisis.”
The county’s Supportive Housing System recently launched its new “Heading Home” efforts to end family homelessness, with a goal to house 1,200 homeless families this year and another 600 annually moving forward.