Our Homelessness Crisis
Homelessness like we see in our community today is a relatively new phenomenon. It emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, as the product of political and social changes leaving many on the streets for the first time. Failed housing policy, reduced public services, mass incarceration and structural racism all played a part in bringing us to the crisis we now face.
More than 7,000 people are living outside on any given night in neighborhoods throughout Santa Clara County. About 5,000 of them do not have access to any type of shelter, leaving them vulnerable and constantly at risk. So much so that nearly 150 people died on our streets in 2017.
Who is at Risk?
People experiencing homelessness in our community include veterans, seniors families, and survivors of domestic violence. Each person is somebody’s neighbor, friend, sister, father or grandmother.
For many of the working poor in our community, homelessness is just a crisis away. Due to the high cost of living in Silicon Valley, losing a job, a major accident, emergency or bad choice could easily result in homelessness.
For more than half those living without a home in Santa Clara County, homelessness is a temporary circumstance.
Our Housing Crisis
Santa Clara County does not have enough homes affordable to low-income families. Many live in unsafe conditions and pay more than 50% of their income on rent. As a result, thousands risk losing their homes and falling into homelessness.
The solution is to build more, yet none of our County’s cities have met development goals for new housing affordable to low-income renters. While there are more than 100,000 families in our community with very or extremely low incomes, there are fewer than 34,000 rental apartments and houses in our County that they can afford.
Even with availability of financing for the housing that we most need, new development faces many obstacles and stumbling blocks. Navigating the zoning authority of 15 cities along with a lack of available land make if difficult to move forward quickly to address the crisis.
Losing a home makes everything else more difficult. Imagine trying to find food and shelter, locate a public bathroom and shower, wash your clothes, conduct a job search, get to appointments on time and refill your medication while not having a safe place to sleep at night. Imagine doing all of that on foot, every day, without friends or family to help you.
Cost of Homelessness
Our homeless neighbors in Santa Clara County live in precarious and often unhealthy situations, sometimes leading to use of public services at a higher rate than the general population.
According to the report Home Not Found: The Cost of Homelessness in Silicon Valley, we spend more than $520 million per year (every year) providing critical safety net services to persons experiencing homelessness.
Stigma surrounding homelessness and mental health is not only harmful to individuals but costly for our society as a whole. Homeless people often face the assumption that (based on their appearance, behavior or living circumstances) they are unstable and dangerous, suffer from an addiction, or have a mental health condition which has led them to homelessness. These false generalities have led to a NIMBY-ism (Not In My Backyard) point of view which, at times, can detract focus on viable and proven solutions to address our homelessness crisis.