SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.— The County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors approved $1,096,000 for the countywide cold weather program to help prevent cold weather injuries and death among unsheltered homeless individuals and families, and to fund temporary cold weather shelter beds for the 125 beds lost with the closing of Sunnyvale Armory in northern Santa Clara County. County administration will also work with six Emergency Assistance Network agencies to increase homeless prevention services; develop a countywide coordinated homeless prevention strategy; and collaborate with HomeFirst to increase outreach and case management services for chronically homeless persons from the North County and West Valley areas.
As part of its action to approve the service agreements with local homeless care providers, the Board of Supervisors reaffirmed its commitment to finding permanent emergency shelter facilities in North County, and directed staff to continue its search.
“Countywide we are struggling with finding shelter facilities to provide cold weather respite for a homeless population that can be at risk of death and hypothermia during extremely cold temperatures,” said President Mike Wasserman, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. “Our goal of getting the homeless into affordable permanent housing remains a high priority. However, we now have to address the more immediate needs of those living on the streets this winter and I hope our neighboring counties are taking similar actions.”
For the past two decades, the County has contributed $400,000 to $800,000 to a countywide Cold Weather Shelter Program (CWSP) operated by HomeFirst. Each season, from November through March, HomeFirst provides emergency shelter to homeless men and women at three locations, including the Boccardo Reception Center in San Jose, the Gilroy Armory, and the Sunnyvale Armory. With the closing of the Sunnyvale Armory, the County has been working with local stakeholders to identify shelter facilities for the upcoming cold weather season that would replace the north county armory’s 125 beds and 15,000 person-shelter days.
“The bad news is we've had a tough time finding a suitable shelter site,” said Supervisor Simitian. “We’re not giving up though. We’ve passed a Plan B for this year, but I hope to be having a very different conversation this time next year.”
With very limited shelter facility options available, and the winter season just two months away, the County is quickly establishing agreements with homeless services providers who have existing programs, expertise and unused shelter capacity to meet the needs of unsheltered homeless. The quick time frame gives the homeless services agencies the needed time to ramp up their programs including time to recruit and develop agreements with motel owners.
“Our efforts to identify replacement shelter facilities for the Sunnyvale Armory have been hampered by a competitive market for industrial and commercial space, zoning and community concerns,” said County Chief Operating Officer Gary Graves. “The Board’s action today enables contracting agencies that specialize in homeless services to move swiftly to put cold weather shelter and outreach services in place for men, women and families when the cold weather hits.”
The countywide cold weather season and inclement weather outreach program will include contracts with Downtown Streets Team (DST), HomeFirst, InnVision Shelter Network (IVSN), IVSN- Hotel de Zink, Project WeHope, and Valley Homeless Healthcare Program (VHHP) in the County’s Ambulatory Health Care Services.
The temporary emergency shelter beds will be provided by HomeFirst, InnVision Shelter Network, the expansion of Hotel de Zink for 90 days during the cold weather season, and Project WeHope which will increase the number of emergency shelter beds in East Palo Alto.
With cold weather shelter contracts in place for the upcoming season, the Board also directed County administration to develop agreements with the six Emergency Assistance Network agencies to increase homeless prevention services and develop a more robust, comprehensive, and coordinated homeless prevention strategy Countywide. The County will also collaborate with HomeFirst to increase specialized outreach and intensive case management services for chronically homeless in the North County and West Valley areas. County Administration is expected to provide recommendations no later than the December 16 Board meeting.
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