SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — Santa Clara County is the heart of Silicon Valley and a hub of wealth, progress, and innovation. 

However, despite these economic gains, the gap between the wealthy and low-income individuals has only widened amid the pandemic. 

Over the last year, in an effort to prevent and end homelessness, the county’s Office of Supportive Housing has ramped up its support services to help thousands of county residents in need. 

Courtesy: The State of the Supportive Housing System in Santa Clara County 2019-2020

“I think the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that it has caused for many of our families and individuals in our communities are yet to be seen,” says Kathryn Kaminski, deputy director for Santa Clara County’s Office of Supportive Housing. 

“But we’re doing everything we can to prevent homelessness for those that are at-risk and to house as many people as possible.”

Over the course of 2019 and 2020, the Supportive Housing System continued to expand and provide support to thousands of county residents in need. 

In 2020 alone, the supportive housing system housed 3,209 individuals, provided financial and rental assistance to prevent homelessness to over 14,000 households, and expanded temporary housing and shelter capacity by over 750 beds to reduce the number of people sleeping outside.

“But for every person that’s housed we see two to three becoming homeless for the first time and that’s because of those extreme income inequalities on our community, the extreme lack of affordable housing in our community,” says Kaminski. 

“Those systemic causes that are pushing people into homelessness everyday.”

Courtesy: The State of the Supportive Housing System in Santa Clara County 2019-2020

Despite significant progress in creating a supportive housing system that moves thousands of homeless individuals and families into housing each year, the crisis continued to grow amid the pandemic. 

A community plan, which was launched in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, focuses on systemic factors to address the root causes of homelessness, and continuing to expand the supportive housing system. 

“What we’ve done as a homeless and housing system across our community is try to set up support for the people who are most deeply impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Kaminski. 

“We also provide isolation and quarantine support, so for those who have tested positive for COVID, we provide a motel if they need to isolate and they’re in a crowded situation or if they are unhoused and unable to isolate where they are.”

 The community plan is far from achieving its goal to end homelessness says Kaminski but has set aggressive targets to achieve by 2025. 

Click her to learn more about the county’s efforts to end homelessness.