News

Homeless population doubles in Mountain View

County numbers go down, but North County homeless population still high

Santa Clara County's homeless population is the lowest it's been in a decade, bringing in praise from city and county officials who say the efforts to reduce homelessness are finally paying off.

But in the North County, things are looking worse than ever. The county released a report this week that gives a "snapshot" head count of the ever-shifting homeless population in its jurisdiction. The report found that between 2013 and 2015, the homeless population in Mountain View ballooned from 139 to a high of 276.

County Supervisor Joe Simitian said there's a clear connection between the increase in Mountain View's homeless population and the loss of the Sunnyvale Armory, a cold-weather homeless shelter for as many as 136 people before it was closed for demolition last year. The data seems to indicate that all those displaced people have headed northward, Simitian said.

"I (proposed) back in early 2014 that we need a replacement shelter because I think this was, altogether, predictable," Simitian said.

The city now has 271 people with no access to an emergency shelter or transitional housing who are stuck on the street, living in cars or living in encampments around the city. People who are homeless in Mountain View are frequently referred to the nearest drop-in shelter, in San Jose, according to Tom Myers, executive director of Community Services Agency (CSA) in Mountain View.

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The lack of homeless resources in the area could be fueling the high homeless count, according to Ky Le, Santa Clara County's director of homeless systems. While cities like San Jose have centrally located homeless shelters and housing, and employment services for people in need of housing, the same cannot be said of Mountain View, which has no nearby drop-in shelters.

"Mountain View in general doesn't have a lot of permanent supportive housing, and as far as I know, it's never had a shelter program," Le said.

The escalating cost of living in the area might also be causing homelessness to spike. In a county-wide survey of nearly 1,000 homeless people, 68 percent of respondents said that they couldn't afford the rent. Fifty-seven percent said they had no job or income, and 38 percent said there was no housing available to them.

Myers said the increase in homelessness in Mountain View isn't a big surprise to him. He said more and more people are coming in to CSA for homeless services each year, and it's starting to put a strain on the nonprofit as the staff struggles to find permanent housing or shelter space for clients.

"We have to take resources from other programs and put it into homeless services," Myers said.

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Part of the problem, he said, is that the North County is relatively affluent compared with the rest of the county, creating a perception that everyone in Mountain View, Palo Alto and Los Altos is wealthy and that homelessness is not an issue.

In addition to needing more shelter space, Myers said, more money needs to be put toward emergency assistance for people who are on the verge of becoming homeless, rather than waiting until people are out on the street. Emergency rent, food and other services, he said, can help to keep someone housed, which is a lot easier than trying to find someone a new home.

The county-wide survey found that 34 percent of homeless people polled said employment assistance would have prevented their homelessness, followed by 31 percent who believed rental assistance would have made the difference.

Simitian said he and his staff have been working to find a facility to replace the armory in the North County area, but that finding a new location in this red-hot real estate market is nothing short of a "Herculean task."

"This is not a good time to be looking for vacant facilities in Silicon Valley," he said.

The push for more emergency shelter space may not be consistent with the county-wide goal of pursing permanent housing and long-term solutions to homelessness, Simitian said, but it would certainly help the immediate needs of hundreds of homeless people in the North County with nowhere to go.

Offsetting the increases in the North County are substantial reductions in homelessness in San Jose, where a vast majority of the county's homeless population resides. The homeless count found 4,063 homeless people this year, versus 4,770 in 2013, due in part to a city-wide initiative to provide housing and jobs to homeless people living in encampments throughout the city, according to the press release.

"The good news is that the overall numbers are headed in the right direction," said county Supervisor Dave Cortese in a press release. "While we still have a large unmet need, those efforts are beginning to pay off."

The homeless population count comes after a comprehensive study last month by the county on what the roughly 6,700 homeless people in Santa Clara County cost taxpayers each year. Estimates found that $520 million a year is spent on services for the county's homeless residents, with health care costs accounting for 53 percent of it, followed by justice system agencies, which took up 34 percent, mostly for jail costs.

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Kevin Forestieri
Kevin Forestieri is an assistant editor with the Mountain View Voice and The Almanac. He joined the Voice in 2014 and has reported on schools, housing, crime and health. Read more >>

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Homeless population doubles in Mountain View

County numbers go down, but North County homeless population still high

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Jun 30, 2015, 9:46 am

Santa Clara County's homeless population is the lowest it's been in a decade, bringing in praise from city and county officials who say the efforts to reduce homelessness are finally paying off.

But in the North County, things are looking worse than ever. The county released a report this week that gives a "snapshot" head count of the ever-shifting homeless population in its jurisdiction. The report found that between 2013 and 2015, the homeless population in Mountain View ballooned from 139 to a high of 276.

County Supervisor Joe Simitian said there's a clear connection between the increase in Mountain View's homeless population and the loss of the Sunnyvale Armory, a cold-weather homeless shelter for as many as 136 people before it was closed for demolition last year. The data seems to indicate that all those displaced people have headed northward, Simitian said.

"I (proposed) back in early 2014 that we need a replacement shelter because I think this was, altogether, predictable," Simitian said.

The city now has 271 people with no access to an emergency shelter or transitional housing who are stuck on the street, living in cars or living in encampments around the city. People who are homeless in Mountain View are frequently referred to the nearest drop-in shelter, in San Jose, according to Tom Myers, executive director of Community Services Agency (CSA) in Mountain View.

The lack of homeless resources in the area could be fueling the high homeless count, according to Ky Le, Santa Clara County's director of homeless systems. While cities like San Jose have centrally located homeless shelters and housing, and employment services for people in need of housing, the same cannot be said of Mountain View, which has no nearby drop-in shelters.

"Mountain View in general doesn't have a lot of permanent supportive housing, and as far as I know, it's never had a shelter program," Le said.

The escalating cost of living in the area might also be causing homelessness to spike. In a county-wide survey of nearly 1,000 homeless people, 68 percent of respondents said that they couldn't afford the rent. Fifty-seven percent said they had no job or income, and 38 percent said there was no housing available to them.

Myers said the increase in homelessness in Mountain View isn't a big surprise to him. He said more and more people are coming in to CSA for homeless services each year, and it's starting to put a strain on the nonprofit as the staff struggles to find permanent housing or shelter space for clients.

"We have to take resources from other programs and put it into homeless services," Myers said.

Part of the problem, he said, is that the North County is relatively affluent compared with the rest of the county, creating a perception that everyone in Mountain View, Palo Alto and Los Altos is wealthy and that homelessness is not an issue.

In addition to needing more shelter space, Myers said, more money needs to be put toward emergency assistance for people who are on the verge of becoming homeless, rather than waiting until people are out on the street. Emergency rent, food and other services, he said, can help to keep someone housed, which is a lot easier than trying to find someone a new home.

The county-wide survey found that 34 percent of homeless people polled said employment assistance would have prevented their homelessness, followed by 31 percent who believed rental assistance would have made the difference.

Simitian said he and his staff have been working to find a facility to replace the armory in the North County area, but that finding a new location in this red-hot real estate market is nothing short of a "Herculean task."

"This is not a good time to be looking for vacant facilities in Silicon Valley," he said.

The push for more emergency shelter space may not be consistent with the county-wide goal of pursing permanent housing and long-term solutions to homelessness, Simitian said, but it would certainly help the immediate needs of hundreds of homeless people in the North County with nowhere to go.

Offsetting the increases in the North County are substantial reductions in homelessness in San Jose, where a vast majority of the county's homeless population resides. The homeless count found 4,063 homeless people this year, versus 4,770 in 2013, due in part to a city-wide initiative to provide housing and jobs to homeless people living in encampments throughout the city, according to the press release.

"The good news is that the overall numbers are headed in the right direction," said county Supervisor Dave Cortese in a press release. "While we still have a large unmet need, those efforts are beginning to pay off."

The homeless population count comes after a comprehensive study last month by the county on what the roughly 6,700 homeless people in Santa Clara County cost taxpayers each year. Estimates found that $520 million a year is spent on services for the county's homeless residents, with health care costs accounting for 53 percent of it, followed by justice system agencies, which took up 34 percent, mostly for jail costs.

Comments

Sweep Needed
Blossom Valley
on Jun 30, 2015 at 10:16 am
Sweep Needed, Blossom Valley
on Jun 30, 2015 at 10:16 am

The smell of human feces around these camps, even the small ones, is evident. Toilet paper and other trash point out the spots. It all washes into the creek. This is nothing new, it has been going on for years and is an environmental wreck. One of the bathrooms used to be on land bordering Landels school, just across from their sleeping area right over the fence. Look at the pictures...The crown jewel of Mtn View. I don't want to "run them out of town" but they do not belong in the creek area. We should really make a better effort of protecting our crown jewel.


Rodger
Sylvan Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 2:25 pm
Rodger, Sylvan Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Mountain View should find a place for the homeless, this need is more important than most other city needs.


OK, ideas?
Bailey Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 3:07 pm
OK, ideas?, Bailey Park
on Jun 30, 2015 at 3:07 pm

Yah, we should but it's those pesky details about how, where and who pays that people get stuck on. We need ideas on the fix, not acknowledgement that something needs to be done, that we already know, just like every town in this area. We SHOULD find a cure for cancer as well.


Why is this MV's problem?
Rex Manor
on Jun 30, 2015 at 4:43 pm
Why is this MV's problem?, Rex Manor
on Jun 30, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Why is this story only posted in the Mountain View paper? I'm guessing most of these people come from around the bay area, not just Mountain View. Many were probably staying in Sunnyvale and moved to the creek in Mountain View when the armory closed. Will this story also run in the Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Woodside, Atheron, Portola Valley papers? I'm guessing not, so why is Mountain View the lucky one? I'm feeling quite manipulated by the Voice editors at this point.

"Mountain View in general doesn't have a lot of permanent supportive housing, and as far as I know, it's never had a shelter program," Le said.

Maybe, but neither do any of the other cities mentioned above!!! Homelessness is a regional problem not a city problem. I honestly have no interest in helping unless I see other (wealthier) cities pitching in to do their fair share as well.


Kal Sandhu
Castro City
on Jun 30, 2015 at 5:42 pm
Kal Sandhu, Castro City
on Jun 30, 2015 at 5:42 pm

This is not a Democrat, Republican, City or County problem. This is a human problem that needs to be dealt with humanity, compassion and decency. There will always be those who are rich, those who just make ends meet and those who are homeless. The Silicon Valley as a whole is an expensive place to live in. Public housing in this country is shameful. I suggest that public housing be built that give the option for the tenants to purchase their respective units at a low interest below market rate on a 99 year lease. Lets help take of the homeless. Lets provide them shelter and at least food. Its amazing how well we take care of our animals and neglect fellow human beings. We have enough intelligence, I hope, in the county to come up with a solution for those who are homeless. Gathering them and bussing them to Nevada is not a solution but an insult to all residents of the county. Its not the job of the MVPD to convince then to leave; its their job to protect al residents including the homeless from any harm. If we wait for others to help nothing will ever be done. Proactive elected leaders are needed not those that are reactive after the fact. Lets all pitch in as we are a great city.


Kevin
another community
on Jun 30, 2015 at 11:42 pm
Kevin, another community
on Jun 30, 2015 at 11:42 pm

Ok here's an obvious question: if you don't have a job or a home there, WHY are you trying to live in one of the most expensive locations in the country? My parents couldn't afford rent in Mountain View either, that's why they don't live there.


sarahdox
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Jul 2, 2015 at 10:51 am
sarahdox, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Jul 2, 2015 at 10:51 am

Just wondering what we expect to gain from approving a 600-unit, water guzzling new housing development when we have such a homeless problem!

Are we still closing some school facilities that could be re-purposed as shelters?

What would be the costs of providing portable potties (with honey wagon service), including potable water for hand washing and simple basin bathing (if not showers)?

(Both of these could improve the health situation for homeless, residents, wildlife and pets by containing wastes and promoting sanitary conditions.)

How might funds for BMR housing be earmarked to do some or all of the above?

Could Google be interesting in hiring some of the local homeless?

Being jobless and homeless does not mean being worthless.

Being employed but homeless does not mean being worthless.

Actively helping folks find jobs that will allow them to afford housing (here, OR elsewhere) can dramatically reduce the need for shelters, too.

For those who might have the time to find the money to make this happen, thank you in advance. If you are able to take action, please let us all know if there is a way we can help.


BTW - MV has a lot of "pocket-sized" parks nestled in neighborhoods, and has lots of easy-to-miss spots for folks to nest in when homeless, while have relatively easy access to transportation.


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