SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.— Santa Clara County is the heart of Silicon Valley and a hub of wealth, progress, and invention. However, with these economic gains have come societal and humanitarian costs. While some residents have prospered, others have been left behind. Income disparities and sharp rises in housing costs have caused thousands of Santa Clara County residents to become homeless each year, forcing them to double up with friends and relatives, or to sleep in shelters, on streets, in vehicles, and other places where people are not meant to live.
Ending and preventing homelessness became more urgent than ever with the arrival of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) in our community in early 2020. The realities of the COVID-19 pandemic have further exposed deep gaps in our social safety net, demanding that the County and its many partners respond rapidly to prevent disproportionate impacts on our most vulnerable residents.
“While there is still much work to be done and the economic impacts of COVID-19 are still not yet entirely clear, we know the need for bold action to prevent and end homelessness in our community has never been greater,” said Jeffrey V. Smith, M.D., J.D., County Executive Officer for the County of Santa Clara. “As we have seen over the past year, it will require tremendous effort, new partnerships, and innovative strategies—and it will require the entire community to be a part of the solution,” he added.
Over the course of 2019 and 2020, the Supportive Housing System continued to expand and provide support to thousands of county residents in need. Still, 2020 was a year like no other and, 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.
“The systemic factors driving homelessness are stronger than ever and are forcing more of our community members onto the streets and into shelters every day,” said County of Santa Clara Office of Supportive Housing Director, Consuelo Hernández. “The new community plan – launched in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – focuses on these systemic factors to address the root causes of homelessness, in addition to continuing to expand the supportive housing system, and the many programs and services for people who are currently homeless.”
The three key strategies in the plan include:
- Address the root causes of homelessness through system and policy change.
- Expand homelessness prevention and housing programs to meet the need.
- Improve quality of life for unsheltered individuals and create healthy neighborhoods for all.
“Even for people who we think have the greatest challenges, the needs are simple: safe, affordable housing and appropriate services,” said Deputy County Executive, Ky Le. “We believe housing is foundational to recovery; if stable, safe, decent housing is provided, people can overcome the harshest of circumstances and experiences.”
While we are far from achieving our goals to end homelessness, the Community Plan set aggressive targets to achieve by 2025. And, in 2020 alone, we were able to house 3,209 individuals; provide financial and rental assistance to prevent homelessness to over 14,000 households; and expand temporary housing and shelter capacity by over 750 beds to reduce the number of people sleeping outside.
“The support we received relieved a lot of my stress and anxiety, and it made me realize that I am not alone; I am proud to be part of a community that takes care of one another,” said Rosa, a recipient of COVID-19 financial assistance who fell behind on rent after being furloughed without pay from her position as a janitor.
Challenging times call for gratitude and reflection. It is in this spirit that the Office of Supportive Housing released its third report on the State of the Supportive Housing System, which highlights Santa Clara County’s advancements towards our goal of ending homelessness.
“This report begins with the progress that the County and our many partners have made since releasing our 2015 Community Plan to End Homelessness, starting with an acknowledgement of the role that the Housing First philosophy has played in our system’s growth,” said County of Santa Clara Chief Operating Officer, Miguel Márquez. “Through our commitment to Housing First, and our collaborations with our city, nonprofit, business, and philanthropic partners, we have built new affordable housing, created a robust homelessness prevention system, improved access to behavioral health services, moved toward greater system equity and inclusiveness, and raised the voices of people with lived experience in critical decision-making processes.”
We invite you to read the 2019-2020 Ending Homelessness Report to find out more about our successes, the challenges we face to end homelessness, and testimony from community members who, with the support they needed, overcame homelessness.
ABOUT THE OFFICE OF SUPPORTIVE HOUSING
The Office of Supportive Housing’s (OSH) mission is to increase the supply of housing and supportive housing that is affordable and available to extremely low income and/or special needs households. OSH supports the County mission of promoting a healthy, safe, and prosperous community by ending and preventing homelessness.
ABOUT THE COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA
The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents in Santa Clara County, California, making it more populous than 14 states in the U.S. The County provides essential services to its residents, including public health protection, environmental stewardship, medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System, child and adult protection services, homelessness prevention and solutions, roads, park services, libraries, emergency response to disasters, protection of minority communities and those under threat, access to a fair criminal justice system, and many other public benefits.
Visit the County of Santa Clara at: https://www.sccgov.org
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Media Contact: María Leticia Gómez, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119, firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: May 7, 2021