City approves downtown homeless shelter

Church property will support up to 50 people through the cold winter months

Homeless women and children will have a sanctuary from the cold, wet winter months in Mountain View after city officials agreed Wednesday afternoon to permit a homeless shelter to operate at Trinity United Methodist Church, just in time for the holidays.

The approval, which glided through the administrative zoning hearing on Oct. 25 with no opposition, allows the church to house overnight up to 50 people -- specifically families and single women -- beginning the week of Thanksgiving and running through the end of March. The shelter program also includes restrooms, meals, showers and laundry services.

The shelter will be run by HomeFirst, the same organization that operates the cold weather shelter in Sunnyvale, which has supported North County residents during the winter months since 2015. The costs to run the Mountain View shelter will be paid for by the county to the tune of $350,000 each year through the 2021-22 fiscal year, totaling a commitment of $1.4 million.

Although the Sunnyvale shelter has been invaluable for homeless residents in the region, there's simply too much of a demand for the neighboring city to accommodate everyone. It was frequently packed to the brim, and more than 25 families had to be turned away due to lack of available beds, according to a county staff report.

At the standing room-only hearing on Wednesday, Trinity United Methodist Church Pastor Michael Love said he was grateful that the county, the city and the church could work together and bring much-needed homeless services to an area where many people have struggled with high housing costs. The 50 emergency shelter beds, which will be provided in the sanctuary space of the church, is an important step towards beginning to address the region's "extreme housing crisis," he said.

A 2017 countywide homeless census found that Mountain View's homeless population has tripled over the last four years to 416 people, and the effects are easy to spot. More than 120 vehicle dwellers have been mapped throughout Mountain View -- mostly in RVs along Latham Street, Crisanto Avenue and Shoreline Boulevard -- while others have put together makeshift encampments along Stevens Creek.

After receiving the city's blessing for the shelter by way of a conditional use permit, Love told the Voice he was overjoyed that the church is now able to get the pilot program off the ground and support the "housing relief needs" in the North County area. He said it was a team effort by County Supervisor Joe Simitian, Community Services Agency (CSA) and city and county staff, all of whom poured "many hours into planning, coordination and community outreach" for the shelter plans.

"This has resulted in a significant movement of policy and practice, and is a good indicator of the commitment to our neighbors who are in need of help to re-establish their stability," Love said in an email.

The shelter will operate from 5 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. on weekdays, with extended morning hours on the weekend, and will accept individuals on a referral-only basis. The permit calls on shelter management to prohibit loitering outside of the church, which is located next to single-family homes, and to ensure that the shelter doesn't create trash and debris in and around the church property. An unarmed security guard will be onsite during the shelter hours.

Although similar proposals in Santa Clara County have been shot down by local residents worried about the effects of a homeless shelter in their neighborhood, such opposition never really materialized in the Old Mountain View neighborhood. Simitian told the Voice that both the community and the city of Mountain View have been exceptionally welcoming, and that local residents and businesses around the church acknowledged that the homeless shelter is important, was carefully thought through and well planned. The permit approval was preceded by several community meetings, letters noticing nearby residents and even door-to-door outreach by Simitian's office to make sure everyone knew what was being proposed.

"When you reach out to folks and you listen and are genuinely responsive, you get a good result," Simitian said. "I think that's what we saw at the hearing."

Simitian said he suspects residents were also sympathetic to the idea that the shelter would support homeless families and single women, whom the county has struggled to serve and who have different needs than single men.

Trinity United Methodist Church has already been an important resource for homeless residents for years. The property is home to Hope's Corner, a nonprofit food service that provides free meals to hundreds of needy individuals each Saturday. Both Hope's Corner and HomeFirst are expected to work closely to provide services to the homeless during the shelter months.

Earlier this year, county supervisors approved a $500,000 forgivable loan to help Hope's Corner upgrade its kitchen facilities along with a $200,000 "bridge loan" while the nonprofit waits for community benefit funding. Combined, they would go a long way toward providing meals for residents of the shelter. Simitian said the kitchen could also provide valuable culinary job training for the short-term residents at the shelter.

Construction on the new kitchen has been slow to start, however, so these ambitious plans for onsite cooking won't come to fruition until after this cold weather season, Simitian said.

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21 people like this
Posted by Bruce England
a resident of Whisman Station
on Oct 26, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Kudos to all involved for making this happen. The least fortunate among us depend on such accommodation.

18 people like this
Posted by Maher
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Oct 26, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Delighted with this news. Thanks to all who helped make it happen and to the MV city officials who supported and guided it.

17 people like this
Posted by juan olive
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 26, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Very nice. Who or what can the public do to help out? Donations, canned food, clothing?

21 people like this
Posted by mike
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 26, 2017 at 4:55 pm

good news for all

and many thanks to the community for thoughtful questions and support

Mountain View is a special place

in addition there will be connections to the local schools district for tutoring

there will be a volunteer coordinator and opportunities to provide food, an entire meal, and an opportunity to tutor

staffing seems more than ample and guests will be screened by CSA and other community organizations

Mike Fischetti and Marilyn Winkleby
Hope's Corner

22 people like this
Posted by Bruce Karney
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 26, 2017 at 5:03 pm

I live a few blocks from this church and pass by it often when I walk to Castro St. I am not a religious person and have seldom attended religious services, but to the best of my understanding is the foundation of the Judeo-Christian faith. The central tenet can be expressed either "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," or as "Do not do unto others what you would not wish others to do unto you." In either case, sheltering those who have no shelter of their own seems to line up perfectly with what a faith community should be doing.

5 people like this
Posted by M Michael
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2017 at 5:25 am

Providing shelter us excellent. I question why this news report did not cover what are the “different “ needs of homeless men. I’m also questioning how government funds can be utilized without equal available support for homeless fathers. The lack of news reporting on this inequality stuns me and sounds like Mountain View voice is not fulfilling its duty to fully report on this topic. Also, where is the news coverage of more exact financial information about the extreme wealth in Santa Clara County compared to the financial support provided to residents who are priced out of apartments. Why is this news source derelict in its duty to balancing coverage of the issue of homelessness in Santa Clara County and in Mountain View. Consistently the leaders in Mountain View approve housing developments that do not include space for below market accommodations and this newspaper does not shine a light or report on that important social crisis.

12 people like this
Posted by mike
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 27, 2017 at 9:19 am

the fathers of homeless families are also welcome in the shelter with their family

single women also welcomed

single men predominate at the sunnyvale shelter onhamlin avenue

7 people like this
Posted by David B. Karpf, MD
a resident of North Whisman
on Oct 27, 2017 at 5:37 pm

M Michael,

What "Mike" said.

I have seen articles in this paper concerning the housing situation in Mountain View, including the absence of affordable housing in proposals that come to the City Council. I think you are expecting too much from a local paper in this day and age, as I think it may be expecting too much to want it to be comparable to the NY Times, or even the Mercury News in it's investigative muckracking prowess.

Like Mike and others who have posted who live in Mountain View, I applaud Trinity United Methodist Church, HomeFirst and Hopes Corner for the assistance they are providing to the homeless in our city/area, the MV City Council for their support in approving this shelter, and the County (and especially County Supervisor Joe Simitian) for paying the operating expenses of this shelter.

Mike and others are correct - many shelters "cater" to homeless single men. It is due to need, not discrimination, that this shelter is focusing (albeit not exclusively) on families with single mothers and single women. If you have any real-world experience and empathy you will understand that it sometimes sub-optimal to house single men together with single women or single mothers with young kids. Thats' true in both lower primates such as chimpanzees, and in homo sapien sapiens...

6 people like this
Posted by mike
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 28, 2017 at 10:22 pm


and last year the sunnyvale shelter on hamlin was not able to accept 25 families

in the last 2 years in the county 3000 were housed- but in the last homeless count there were 1000 more than 2 years ago and the biggest increases were in 1. youth under 25 and 2. families --- mountain view had a substantial increase

more needs to be done in terms of affordable - with the passed 950 million dollar bond over 10 years there are a lot of funds available and seems the county is active housing the homeless but still need more affordable housing
this coming saturday nov 4 Hope's corner is serving its 50,000 meal

come by sometime and ask for me

mike f
hope's corner

5 people like this
Posted by Amazed
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Nov 3, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Bravo to all who've worked to bring this to fruition. IMO this is one of THE MOST important things Mountain View needs to focus on.
Thank you!
The Google and Tech developments should take a lead on this and on housing priced below market. After all they are the ones impacting what used to be a great quality of life here.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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