The need for more shelters has been acute recently, as studies have shown scores of new people living on the street, particularly in the North County. A 2017 countywide survey counted more than 1,070 homeless individuals living in Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Cupertino. This was a 25 percent increase from just two years earlier.
Yet around the same time as homelessness was spiking, some services in the North County were taking a step backward. In 2014, the city of Sunnyvale tore down a former National Guard Armory building that was used as a homeless shelter and replaced it with low-income housing.
Santa Clara County opened the current Sunnyvale shelter on Hamlin Court in 2016, and it soon became clear the 125 available beds were outmatched by the need. Dozens of families reportedly had to be turned away due to a lack of space. Last summer, the county increased funding so that the shelter could accommodate 15 more people, and they plan to expand it further in the coming months.
Along with the Sunnyvale shelter, Santa Clara County officials also previously contributed $1.4 million to help open a new cold weather shelter in Mountain View at the Trinity United Methodist Church. That shelter, located at 748 Mercy St., opened in December and is providing 50 beds intended mainly for women and families with children. It is scheduled to close on April 15.
The Sunnyvale shelter was also slated to close in mid-April. If it closed, that would mean many of the people staying there would have little option but to relocate to the streets, said County Supervisor Joe Simitian.
"It's not like they wouldn't be out in the community, it would just mean they're living out by parks and storefronts," he said. "The notion of losing the beds in Sunnyvale and in Mountain View would mean there's no place for these folks to go."
Expanding the Sunnyvale shelter to a year-round model is being tested by county officials for now as a pilot program that will last through October. At that point, county officials expect to make a decision on the best model for ongoing homeless services.
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