Call it Exhibit A of Silicon Valley's worsening housing crisis – a new Santa Clara County homeless census has found a spike in the number of people living on the street in Mountain View and several nearby cities.
Conducted every two years, the 2017 Point-In-Time Census found that the number of homeless in Mountain View jumped by 51 percent. This translates to about 130 additional people since the count was last done in 2015.
The uptick in people without stable housing is evident in many other South Bay communities. For Palo Alto, which just this week began cracking down on people living out of their cars, the number of homeless increased by 26 percent. In Cupertino, it went up by 74 percent. In Morgan Hill, it skyrocketed 379 percent. Approximately one-third of those homeless are living out of vehicles.
The source of this problem is pretty obvious, said Dr. Brian Greenberg, vice president of LifeMoves, the homeless-services nonprofit that organized the new census. More people are now living on the street as a direct result of the lack of affordable housing, he said.
“Rents have doubled in Mountain View in the last decade, you don't building affordable housing, there's no shelter in the whole city, and the service jobs only pay $12 or $13 an hour.
"This is the natural outgrowth of all that,” Greenberg said.
The picture for Santa Clara County as a whole is not as dire. Overall, the county saw a 13 percent increase in homelessness, or about 850 more people.
The report shows the county saw a drop in the number of homeless veterans and people with disabling conditions who have been chronically homeless for one year or more, but an increase in families and unaccompanied youth ages 24 and under.
The homeless census was conducted in January during an early-morning street count that covered more than 1,300 square miles of the county. Volunteers and paid homeless guides navigated the streets and took a tally of any individuals or families who appeared to be homeless.
Admittedly, this method gives an inexact picture of the local homeless problem. Greenberg emphasized that the most important takeaway from the report is that the homeless problem seems to be worsening. That trend will likely continue until South Bay cities partner together to create a new service network across the area, he said.
“Everyone in Silicon Valley needs to step up to the plate,” he said. “It has to be a regional solution with every community stepping up.”
Some relief is coming. Last November, countywide voters overwhelmingly approved a $950 million bond measure to address low-income housing. Some of that money will be doled out in the coming months.
The full Point-In-Time Census report can be found here.