Santa Clara Co. Supes Offers $ 25 Million Investment in Housing Sites

By Jana Kadah, Bay City News Foundation

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA – Santa Clara County supervisors may approve $ 25 million next week to build 10 new interim housing sites in the county.

The proposal, presented by supervisors Joe Simitian and Otto Lee, allocates $ 2.5 million for each site in US Rescue Plan dollars to fund the development and operational costs of 10 sites for five years.

“This has the potential to (help) 20,000 people over a five-year period,” Simitian said at a press conference at a temporary housing site in Mountain View.

Simitian and local leaders gathered at the site, operated by non-profit LifeMoves, to present the upcoming proposal to the supervisory board on Tuesday.

It’s a site they hope to replicate across the county “10 times,” said Aubrey Merriman, CEO of LifeMoves.

This is because it is a cost effective site that can be built quickly to provide homeless residents with shelter and services to help them move into supportive housing.

The sites are built from converted shipping containers measuring approximately 40 square feet. Each unit costs between $ 50.00 and $ 200,000 per unit and can take less than six months, Merriman said.

In comparison, a traditional shelter can take years to build at a cost of $ 400,000 to $ 800,000 per unit, supervisors said.

LifeMoves vice president of real estate and operations Joanne Price said it was also a cost-effective method because it saves taxpayers money.

She said that at the Mountain View site, with all the services, staff, and development costs, it costs around $ 75 to $ 95 per night per person per bed.

In comparison, the cost to leave someone chronically homeless in Santa Clara County is around $ 227 a night, according to a 2015 report by the housing advocacy group Destination: Home.

LifeMoves would be the operator of the 10 sites if the board’s proposal passed on September 28 and would use the Mountain View site as a model.

On site, there are 100 rooms which house approximately 100 adults and 20 children. Eighty-eight of the rooms are single occupancy and can be shared by two people and 12 rooms are for families of up to five people.

Each room is equipped with air conditioning, storage, a desk and a bed.

The site also has a small play area for children, community rooms, shared bathrooms and over a dozen washers and dryers.

There, residents receive a myriad of personalized services, such as case management, mental health support and employment services, to help them move into permanent housing.

It is a method according to Merriman which has been proven. On the Mountain View site, 69% of individuals and 89% of families were able to return to permanent supportive housing within a few months.

“It’s more than just a lock on the door,” Merriman said. “This is coupled with our intensive and comprehensive services that we deliver to each of our clients. “

Diane Jones, a current resident of the transitional housing site, said her bedroom was the perfect sleeping area for her to get back on her feet.

“It sounds small, but it’s not,” Jones said. “It’s a safe place to sleep, I can lock the door, it’s amazing.”

Jones, a longtime Mountain View resident, fell into homelessness after her divorce. Although she previously worked at NASA and Cisco, she became a stay-at-home mom after having her son. So when she got divorced, she found herself with no income and subsequently no place to stay.

“Then I became disabled and my fixed income of $ 1,300 a month just wasn’t enough to find a place to live,” Jones said. “I found myself homeless with my son.”

But after living in the temporary housing site for just over three months, she said staff helped her son find a job. And with their joint income, she and her son are moving into an apartment in Mountain View in two weeks.

“I’m really happy to be staying in my hometown and I don’t have to leave,” Jones said. “I will always, always recommend this place.”

Numerous representatives from the cities of Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Santa Clara attended Thursday’s press conference to show their support for the proposal or to learn more about it.

Sunnyvale City Council member Alyssa Cisneros said she looks forward to working with LifeMoves and the county to build a similar temporary site in her town.

“We have a cost-effective, high-impact interim housing solution for those who need it most,” said Cisneros.

She stressed that temporary housing was essential for people to get back on track.

“Imagine trying to figure out our appointments, our housing requests and how to get food stamps … now imagine doing it, but you don’t have room to put your things everyday,” Cisneros said. . “People need to have security in their lives to reach their full potential.”

She added that she was particularly enthusiastic about this being a multi-partner approach.

“None of us can do it alone and we should do it,” said the recently elected Sunnyvale city council member. “Multifaceted problems require multi-partner solutions.”

Simitian called on city leaders, nonprofits and philanthropic organizations to join the county in funding such solutions, especially as homelessness continues to impact more and more people. ‘residents.

The county’s most recent homeless census in 2019 found that nearly 10,000 residents were homeless, 80% of whom were homeless. This number is expected to be higher and to have increased over the past two years, especially with the impacts of the pandemic.

A 2020 report from Working Partnerships USA predicted that more than 40,000 homes in Santa Clara County are at risk of eviction and risk homelessness once the moratorium on evictions expires. The moratorium on state evictions ends on September 30.

“Given these numbers, we have to go big,” Simitian said. “The extra effort just doesn’t do the job.”

Simitian said he hoped the proposal would pass because it requires three votes. If so, county staff will report to the board on Nov. 16 with the location of the sites and a plan to begin construction.

Merriman said he was already in contact with several local municipalities to identify sites.

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