Challenged by the 2014 demolition of the National Guard Amory in Sunnyvale after 20 years as the North County's only emergency homeless shelter, Supervisor Simitian finessed a series of short-term solutions until a permanent replacement site opened for the 2016-2017 cold weather season. Supervisor Simitian also successfully pushed to expand the facility into a year-round operation and increase its shelter beds capacity.
Mountain View winter shelter
Seeing the need for an additional North County cold weather shelter, Supervisor Simitian led a public-private partnership creating 50 beds for families and single women experiencing homelessness at the downtown Mountain View campus of the Los Altos United Methodist Church. The shelter has since become the cornerstone of a community resource center based at the church for residents who are low-income, unhoused, and underserved. With funding from the County to help remodel the facility's commercial kitchen, the site offers a culinary skills job training program and an expanded free meal program, as well as shower, laundry, 12-step programs, and an afterschool arts and empowerment program for underserved youth.
Partnering with the nonprofit organization MOVE Mountain View, Supervisor Simitian championed an effort to bring safe parking to the North County, and later expand options to include lots open 24/7. The goal is to give those living in cars or RVs a safe and stable place to stay, along with access to bathroom, shower, and laundry facilities and case management to help them work toward finding permanent housing. Today, there are more than 100 safe parking spaces across Mountain View and Palo Alto serving hundreds of individuals and families every year.
For residents experiencing homelessness, accessing basic hygiene can be a daily challenge that serves as not only a barrier to health and wellbeing, but also to accessing services, housing, and job opportunities. Dignity on Wheels circulates multiple trailers throughout the County every week, each equipped with private bathrooms, showers, and a washer and dryer.
Job training and placement
Funding job creation can open the path to permanent housing. More than 80% of the homeless in Santa Clara County are unemployed with little access to job-training, transportation or support. With County support, the nonprofit Downtown Streets Team established its Business Outreach and Development effort: engaging the homeless in work projects that will retool skills and work habits as needed; and, developing relationships with local employers to identify job-placement opportunities for trainees.
Recognizing that the human and economic costs of preventing homelessness are often lower than assisting individuals who have already lost their housing, Supervisor Simitian led an effort in 2015 to provide our County's emergency assistance agencies with rental assistance funds and housing specialists to assist community members in retaining and finding housing. The County has since built a Homelessness Prevention System in partnership with Destination: Home and numerous community partners to provide critical assistance to low-income households at risk of becoming homeless, including through temporary financial assistance, legal support, case management, and other services.
Addressing family homelessness
In October 2021, the County launched an initiative in partnership with the City of San Jose, Housing Authority, Destination: Home, and other community partners to decrease instances of family homelessness within the County. Using new rental support resources and homelessness prevention strategies, as well as investing in the development of affordable family rental units, 478 families with children (including 668 adults and 937 children) had found permanent housing by within the first year.
Housing for homeless veterans
Through a collaborative effort by Santa Clara County, the City of San Jose, and the Housing Authority, as well as a wide array of private and nonprofit partners, the All the Way Home initiative focuses on connecting veterans who are homeless to stable housing by increasing housing opportunities and offering case management services to match residents with needed services, available rental units, and rental subsidies. More than 2,000 veterans have been permanently housed as a result of these efforts.
Supportive interim housing sites
Supervisors Joe Simitian and Otto Lee issued a challenge to partners throughout the public and private sector to join the County in supporting the creation of interim housing sites with supportive services. The Board ultimately approved a “Challenge Grant” of up to $40 million to jump start as many as 16 sites/projects for homeless individuals. The challenge grants can be leveraged by nonprofits and other qualified applicants to catalyze the development of supportive interim housing sites across the County. To date the Board has awarded $8 million to support the development of two new sites, one in Palo Alto and one is San Jose, providing more than 300 new units of interim housing for individuals and families.