SAN JOSE – Today, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian joined the City of Palo Alto and LifeMoves at a groundbreaking celebration for Homekey Palo Alto, a new emergency interim shelter located at 1237 San Antonio Road. It’s the second site to break ground that uses funding from the County’s “Challenge Grant” program to address homelessness, a program initiated by County Supervisors Joe Simitian and Otto Lee.
“Two years ago, Supervisor Lee and I stood at the LifeMoves Mountain View site – an innovative housing solution built during the pandemic. Shortly thereafter, we announced a proposal to provide County funding to support the development of much-needed shelter for our homeless community members.” said Simitian. “A year ago, Homekey Palo Alto was awarded $4 million from that ‘challenge grant.’ While I’m pleased to see Homekey Palo Alto break ground today, we need to address these challenges with a greater sense of urgency. We need to do more, and we need to do it faster.”
Homekey Palo Alto will have 88 units (including 24 units for families) with private showers and restrooms, and is expected to serve more than 200 people each year. The modular village is being built on a one-acre lot located near the Palo Alto Baylands, and will have on-site laundry, kitchen, and outdoor spaces, including a dog run and children’s play area. There will also be space for on-site counseling, vocational training and other supportive services for residents.
Approved in September 2021, the Simitian/Lee Challenge Grant Program (formally known as the Service-Enriched Shelter Forgivable Loan Program) makes available up to $40 million of County funding to support the development of up to 16 new interim housing sites using modular prefabricated housing units. The funds can be used for capital or operational expenses. The hope is that cities and nonprofit partners throughout the County will be able to leverage these funds, combined with other sources, to move these projects forward more quickly.
“We made the proposal a ‘challenge grant’ to encourage others to step up and join us: cities, private philanthropy, and the State, because no one can do this alone,” said Simitian. “With today’s groundbreaking in Palo Alto, we have nearly 300 new units being constructed in two communities that have stepped up to do their part.”
The first “Challenge Grant” site to break ground was Homekey Branham Lane located in San Jose at Branham Lane and Monterey Road. The interim shelter being co-developed by LifeMoves and the City of San José will have 204 units, with a focus on chronically homeless single adults. And similar to the Palo Alto site, the shelter units incorporate a purpose-built design with modular units stacked 2-3 stories to improve site efficiency.
“We know interim shelter is only part of the solution, but we can’t allow folks to remain on our streets while they wait for permanent housing,” said Simitian.
Simitian noted that these sites are intended to provide “interim shelter” while these folks eventually find permanent shelter, but acknowledged that, “creating that supply of long-term lasting affordable housing is an even more daunting challenge. Particularly in the high-cost communities in the North County and West Valley. In the meantime, I’m so, so pleased that Palo Alto stepped up to take advantage of our challenge grant. If we get as many as 200 folks a year out of the weather and off the streets, it’s progress.”