Santa Clara County will soon launch a pilot program to bring financial support to unhoused high school seniors after the county's Board of Supervisors unanimously approved it Tuesday.
From April to August 2023, the program will send out unconditional payments of $1,000 a month to homeless students in their final year of high school in an effort to ease their transition into higher education or work opportunities.
Introduced by Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg, the proposal localizes state Sen. Dave Cortese's failed bill, Senate Bill 1341. If passed, the bill introduced in February would have financially supported homeless teenagers in their last five months of high school.
The hope was to combat the 15,000 unhoused seniors in California from slipping further into poverty without proper financial resources -- something Cortese refers to as the "summer melt."
"This makes Santa Clara County the first county in the state to refuse to graduate high school seniors into homelessness," Cortese said in a statement. "I am grateful to Supervisor Ellenberg for carrying this movement forward and our Board of Supervisors for leading with vision by supporting our students through this critical transition period."
Cortese, a former Santa Clara County supervisor, previously created the county's basic income program for young people exiting foster care in June 2020. The program was recently renewed by county supervisors to extend into 2023.
Roughly 2,500 students in the county faced homelessness in the 2020-21 school year, according to county data.
Ellenberg said this pilot program is an opportunity for the county to both provide more than just self-improvement programs for people in need, and to rewrite the "harmful and narrow personal responsibility narratives" that those in poverty cannot be trusted with unrestricted cash.
She believes guaranteed income is this generation's extension of protections like Social Security, child labor laws, 40-hour work weeks and collective bargaining.
"We will counter that narrative and provide a fully-flexible resource for Santa Clara's youth to use as they best see fit as they transition and develop into young adults," Ellenberg said. "From housing to overall wellbeing, guaranteed income reduces volatility and provides stability for residents.