Community Summit on Homelessness
In recognition of how Housing and Homelessness is one of the biggest challenges facing the county, Supervisor Dave Cortese developed and hosted the Santa Clara County Community Summit on Homelessness on September 21, 2019. A diverse group of county residents came together to connect, listen, share and engage on this important topic. The event was attended by approximately 250 individuals comprised of service providers, government leaders, law enforcement, public health representatives, housing leaders, developers, homeless advocates, homeless and recently housed individuals, community and neighborhood groups and educators attended the event located at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. Great efforts were made by the Supervisor’s office to ensure all interests were present and included in the summit.
The Summit participants also came up with an impressive list of other recommendations that the Task Force can look into, including expanding mental health teams, providing lockers for unhoused residents to safely store their belongings, funding more portable showers, providing cell phones and chargers and educating the public about the diverse experiences of homelessness and include positive stories. Read the Community Summit on Homelessness Report.
Measure A for Affordable Housing
Measure A is scheduled to provide 4,800 affordable housing units over 10 years, with 75% of them targeted for those who are extremely low income and very low income as identified by federal guidelines. At this time, 18 housing projects are in the works, and three have opened, which will provide about 2,000 units. Some of the units are called permanent supportive housing. This means that the tenants will also receive services, including treatment for addiction, mental and physical healthcare and job training. The idea is that people who have been homeless for a long time not only need roofs over their heads but help to stabilize their lives and put them on a path to success. But Measure A funds cannot be used for temporary shelter or transitional housing. The funding is restricted to building new housing and to renovating existing housing for use as permanent supportive housing. That’s the deal we made with voters who approved Measure A Affordable Housing Bond in 2016. So, while we’re making progress toward the medium- and long-term solution to respond to our housing crisis, we are long overdue in addressing are desperate need to provide temporary shelter and housing while the permanent housing is being built. That’s what the Homeless Task Force will be charged to do.
Supervisor Cortese’s Homelessness Action Plan and Task Force
In an urgent response to the immediate needs of thousands of residents living outside and in their cars, Supervisor Cortese presented a slate of community-generated initiatives that include creating a Homeless Task Force that will focus on short-term solutions to provide shelter and services. Supervisor Cortese’s Homelessness Action Plan was approved unanimously in January of 2020. The Plan included the following actions:
- Develop a plan to increase 2,000 shelter beds in the next 12 to 18 months countywide with at least 200 beds per Supervisorial District;
- Explore how Governor Newsom’s executive order on state investments in homelessness can be used in the County, including surplus state land and state-owned trailers and tents;
- Propose options for the County to add staff to the Office of Supportive Housing dedicated to transitional housing.
- Examine current shelters and how they operate and how the County's senior residents are uniquely and disproportionately impacted by the homelessness crisis.
- Create communities with granny units or tiny homes with on-site services.
- Expand the County’s Behavioral Health Services’ Mobile Crisis Response Team.
- Provide containers and lockers for unhoused individuals to keep their belonging safe during the day.
- Fund more portable showers and toilets, laundry services and trash cans.
- Increase funding for more mental health workers and drug and alcohol addiction counselors.
- Look at increasing homeless prevention resources.
- Establishing a Homelessness Task Force of specified community leaders to move forward with the recommendations made in the Community Summit on Homelessness Report.
Sites for Temporary Shelter
Supervisor Cortese’s most recent referral will bring back to the Board of Supervisors options to explore temporary shelter options. The plan could include using mobile homes, recreational vehicles, pallet shelters or other kinds of moveable tiny homes to provide housing. Temporary amenities within the site should include showers, hygiene kits, medical supplies, garbage dispensers and washers and dryers.
Actions on MTC/ABAG
- As a Metropolitan Transportation Commission Board Member, helped to produce a toolbox/handbook to provide guidance to cities on parking policies to support smart growth. The program delivers technical assistance and planning support to over 40 Bay Area cities.
- As an MTC Board Member revised the TLC program – which was established in 1997 – to direct capital, planning and technical assistance grants to PDAs, allowing cities to focus on larger-scale planning. TLC planning and capital grants totaled over $250 million during the life of the program.
- On MTC, approved a $10 million commitment through the TLC program to establish a new $50 million revolving loan fund for affordable housing near transit. TOAH was later augmented with another $10 million for a total loan fund of $90 million
- Served on the steering committee of CASA – The Committee to House the Bay Area – which brought together major employers, for-profit and nonprofit housing developers, labor and environmental leaders, public policy and affordable housing advocates, transportation experts, charitable foundations and elected officials to tackle the region’s housing crisis head on. This resulted in a package of legislation around statewide housing.
- Adopted Plan Bay Area 2050, an integrated long-range transportation and land-use strategy. The plan focuses on 78% of new housing and 62% of new jobs in PDAs.
Actions on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors
- Community Plan to End Homelessness: Approved the Community Plan to End Homelessness which guided the Housing Task Force which I initiated. As a result, the community has measurably increased the rate of connection to permanent housing out of the homeless response system, and the percentage of those persons who remain stably housed.
- Faster Track for Benefits for Homeless Veterans: Applications for benefits from homeless U.S. Military veterans will be stamped for immediate action now that the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved Supervisor Cortese’s proposal to expedite their claims. The new protocol also calls for better methods of outreach to the homeless community, improved coordination among service providers to make sure that veterans are being referred quickly to services provided by community-based organizations, and data tracking to assess the needs of homeless veterans in Santa Clara County.
- Groundbreaking Pay for Success Project: The Board approved the selection of Abode Services, one of the Bay Area’s largest and most effective providers of housing services, as the lead service provider for an innovative project to address chronic homelessness. Through this new program, some of the most vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness in the county will be provided with housing and supportive services. Unlike traditional government-funded programs, however, this effort will employ a “Pay for Success” model under which the County pays for services when Abode delivers results – in this case, the stability and wellness of homeless clients.
- Housing Task Force: Supervisor Cortese initiated the creation of a countywide housing task force that met monthly with representatives from business, labor, city and county offices, the local homeless population, and many experts on housing and homelessness.
- Veteran’s Housing Facility Opening: In April of 2015, Supervisor Cortese was asked by the White House to meet with Robert McDonald, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in San Francisco. Along with local mayors, I took the VA’s pledge to end homelessness for veterans this year. I led the effort, to open the Veteran’s Housing Facility in San Jose which shelters 130 veterans who are homeless and connects them to services as they await qualification for housing.
- All the Way Home Campaign: Supervisor Cortese launched the “All the Way Home” campaign in 2015 to end veteran homelessness in Santa Clara County in partnership between the County of Santa Clara, City of San Jose, the Santa Clara County Housing Authority and Destination: Home. Today, we’ve housed over 1,200 veterans in a permanent home, recruited over 700 landlords and engaged 24 faith-based organizations to help
- Five Year Homeless Shelter Plan: The Board approved a five-year program in 2016 that would provide 360 more homeless shelter beds per year. The program cost a total of $8.3 million, including $5.8 million for emergency shelter and services for 130 people a year at the Gilroy Armory and for 125 a year at Sunnyvale's North County Winter Shelter.
- Job Training Pilot Program: Acting on Supervisor Cortese’s proposal, the County created a pilot program that, in six 130-hour courses, helped formerly homeless apply to become state-registered apprentices in trades including carpentry, sheet metal work, electrical work, ironworking or commercial painting. At least 200 homeless men and women in Santa Clara County started training for long-term construction jobs through this program.
- Housing Emergency Declaration: As Board President in 2017, Supervisor Cortese asked fellow board members to adopt a resolution finding that the problem of sheltering and housing homeless residents in Santa Clara County is a crisis. The declaration, allowed for in AB 932, opened the door for the county to create a separate set of standards for the design, site development and operation of homeless shelters.
- Improved Access to Affordable Housing for Voucher Holders (2017): When Supervisor Cortese served as President of the Board of Supervisors, we passed an Ordinance that prohibits landlords from rejecting a prospective tenant solely because he or she would use a voucher or other subsidy to pay rent.
- Establishing Sunnyvale Shelter: Supervisor Simitian and Supervisor Cortese led the effort to extend the Sunnyvale Shelter to year-round status as part of a pilot program in 2018. This shelter fills about 140 beds a night.
- First-Time Homebuyers Program – “Empower Homebuyers”: The Board approved a countywide first-time homebuyer assistance program entitled “Empower Homebuyers” in 2018. The program assisted first-time homebuyers with the required down payment, which is usually 20% of the purchase price. Assuming that the County lends about $100,000 to each borrower, “Empower Homebuyers” would help 235 families purchase a home over the first five years of the program.
- Securing Space for Hope Village: At the request of Supervisor Cortese and Supervisor Cindy Chavez, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved moving forward on an agreement to lease land for $1 from the City of San Jose for six months to provide a home for Hope Village. The seven residents and organizers of the tent village previously moved without permission onto state land but were asked to leave. At the same time, the Board looked to serving other homeless individuals at the site with structures like tiny homes.