Ambitious plans to transform Trinity United Methodist Church into a hub for homeless services will move forward next month, thanks in large part to a $1 million contribution from Mountain View's largest tech company.
Google officials announced the company's major financial support, which had been in the works for close to a year and kept secret until this week, during a celebration inside the church sanctuary at the corner of Hope and Mercy streets Tuesday morning, July 24. The funding adds the final key piece to a $2 million plan to offer a cold weather shelter, on-site meal preparation, showers, case management services and job training all under one roof.
The church and its on-site nonprofit, Hope's Corner, have taken on a growing role in supporting homeless and needy residents in recent years. Hope's Corner began providing free weekly meals at its location in Old Mountain View in 2011, and now serves more than 200 people each Saturday morning. Trinity United Methodist Church officials agreed to take it a step further last year, and opened the sanctuary space as a cold weather shelter for up to 50 homeless women and children.
Construction plans to upgrade the facility, which are set to begin in a few weeks, call for building a commercial kitchen to cook food for both the shelter as well as the Saturday program, along with designated space for case management, laundry services and job training.
Javier Gonzalez, Google's public affairs manager, said the company is proud to help bring these vital services to the community, and that Google and its employees strive to be good corporate neighbors and citizens.
"We're very proud to announce a $1 million contribution to help Hope's Corner and this community bring this facility to fruition," he said.
Google joins a growing number of agencies involved in the project, which includes Community Services Agency of Mountain View and Los Altos, Trinity United Methodist Church, Los Altos United Methodist Church, the city of Mountain View, Santa Clara County, HomeFirst, Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC) and the Housing Trust of Silicon Valley. In a symbolic gesture, each agency had a representative put in a "piece" of the partnership on a large poster superimposed over a heart.
Largely responsible for brokering the deal with Google was Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who said Google officials showed a willingness early on to pitch in however they could. Simitian stressed that every single group involved deserves credit, along with the local residents in Old Mountain View who supported the idea of a homeless shelter in their backyard. He points out that last year's approval process for the cold weather shelter was shockingly brief because not one single person publicly opposed the proposal.
"The hearing lasted seven minutes," Simitian said. "And it lasted seven minutes because a proposal to bring 50 homeless people to the area did not generate one person in opposition."
Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel said the neighborhood not only allowed the shelter to go through, but many of the residents stepped up to volunteer during the cold weather months. He said the church is trying to solve an "enormous problem" through its homeless services, getting help from so many different groups and people, and acknowledged that the economic climate in Silicon Valley is exacerbating the problem.
"We're fighting an uphill battle against an economic boom that's separating people," he said.
Mountain View's homeless population tripled from 139 people in 2013 to 416 in 2017, the vast majority of whom are "unsheltered," meaning they are living in vehicles, encampments, along creeks or on the street, according to a census report released by Santa Clara County last year. The entire county saw a smaller increase over the same time period, from 6,760 homeless people in 2013 to 7,034 in 2017.
Hope's Corner board president Leslie Carmichael told the Voice that the nonprofit has been raising money to upgrade its kitchen since 2012, long before the number of people seeking food rapidly grew from dozens to hundreds of every Saturday morning. But she said she had no idea the plans would expand to a multi-million dollar all-encompassing homeless services facility.
"It's really, I think, a testament to the community that all these things have come together, and we're really happy to be part of that," she said.
Although the event was billed as a groundbreaking, real work constructing the new facility will begin in a few weeks, and is expected to take about six months to complete, Carmichael said. Food and shower services currently provided by Hope's Corner are not expected to be interrupted and will continue as usual through the end of the year.