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Sunnyvale homeless shelter to stay open year round


San Jose – The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors today voted unanimously to establish the County’s only year-round shelter outside of San Jose. Proposed by Board President Joe Simitian and Supervisor Dave Cortese, the Board’s action extends operations at the Sunnyvale shelter from six months to year-round on a pilot basis, with a report back in December so the Board can decide whether to make the change permanent.

Simitian, who represents much of the North County and West Valley, has spearheaded the effort to increase homeless services in those areas since 2014. “Recent surveys have shown us that the homeless count is up in the North County, and the level of use the existing shelter in Sunnyvale is getting shows there’s demand,” said Simitian. “I’m hopeful that having a permanent, year-round shelter in the North County will help get some of these folks off the streets and back onto their feet.”

Said Supervisor Cortese, “Having a secure place to sleep at night, storage for belongings and a sense of community and hope are elements we’d like to see in all temporary housing.  The Sunnyvale shelter provides these and more and is ideal for a year-round pilot program.” 

The Sunnyvale shelter is the result of a collaboration between Santa Clara County and the non-profit organization HomeFirst, which runs daily operations at the shelter. It provides beds, twice daily meals, and a variety of supportive services.

Originally established as a temporary cold weather shelter operating for four months a year, the Sunnyvale shelter was extended to a six-month shelter by the Board last year, and capacity was increased by 15 (from 125 to 140, with a goal of eventually serving 175 clients). Today’s action establishes it as the County’s only year-round shelter outside of San Jose. 

“The Sunnyvale shelter is a life-saving place for many people who are struggling to find housing and support,” said Rose Gregorio, a local activist and nurse who has worked with the shelter. “These are kids who come running up to show me the A’s they got on tests at school, elderly people who just need some help and a place to rest, and families who work, but just need some support in a very tough time. Having the shelter open year round will mean that these people don’t need to go back on the street in April.”

For more than 20 years emergency cold weather shelter services were provided at the old Sunnyvale Armory (located on Maude Ave). Each year there were approximately 125 shelter beds contracted for on a nightly basis, from the first Monday after Thanksgiving through the last day in March.

In 2014 the Sunnyvale Armory was torn down and replaced with two affordable housing projects that together provide 47 units of permanent supportive housing. While those units were a welcome addition to the housing supply, they did not eliminate the continuing need for access to emergency shelter in Northern Santa Clara County.

“We continue working toward long-term, systemic solutions to end homelessness entirely in Santa Clara County; but that won’t happen overnight,” said Simitian. “So for now, we should make sure that folks in the North County who are spending their nights on the street have somewhere warm and dry to lay their heads down, year-round.”

The Sunnyvale shelter had been scheduled to close on April 15, but as Simitian noted at the Board meeting earlier today, “Homelessness won’t end on April 15.”

The Board directed County staff to extend the shelter’s operations on a pilot basis, and to report back before the end of the year on the results.

At Simitian’s instigation, the County has also helped establish a temporary cold weather shelter in Mountain View for single women and families, at Trinity United Methodist Church. In addition, in November 2016 County voters approved a $950 million affordable housing bond to help provide permanent relief.