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Supervisors Simitian and Lee Announce Funding Award for Interim Housing Sites

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors today unanimously approved the first round of funding from the County’s $40 million “Challenge Grant” program to combat homelessness. The grant program was first proposed by County Supervisors Joe Simitian and Otto Lee in September 2021. At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting the first $8 million in Challenge Grant funding was awarded for two sites: Homekey Palo Alto and Homekey Branham Lane in San José.

Taken together, these two projects add more than 300 units of emergency shelter housing. The use of stackable, modular, container-type units allows speed and flexibility in design, development, and construction. 

“A year ago, Supervisor Lee and I stood at the LifeMoves Mountain View site – a new innovative housing solution built in just a few months in the middle of the pandemic. Thanks to the quick thinking and fast action of LifeMoves and the City of Mountain View, combined with unprecedented funding from the state, real relief was made quickly available at the Mountain View location,” said Simitian. “There, we announced a proposal to provide County funding to support the development of much-needed beds for our unhoused community members. This first round of funding is a start; that said, we need to do more, and we need to do it faster.”

“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,” continued Simitian. “Today, we can celebrate two projects in two communities that have stepped up to do their part.”

“Obviously, no one agency, organization, or community can solve this issue alone. We have to collaborate to bring quick housing solutions to the community. We’ve been fortunate to have caring community partners step up and work together to open these facilities and provide spaces that our neighbors can call home. Special thanks to the City of San José and the City of Palo Alto for being our first funding recipients,” said Lee.

“LifeMoves exists to end homelessness, and we can’t do that alone,” said LifeMoves CEO Aubrey Merriman. “It takes public, private, and service system partnerships like the Challenge Grant to catalyze innovative projects like these. Thank you, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, especially Supervisors Simitian and Lee, Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt, and San José Mayor Sam Liccardo, for rising to the challenge. A key strategy of the 2020-2025 Community Plan to End Homelessness is to double temporary housing and shelter capacity to reduce the number of people sleeping outside and together we can make that happen. We look forward to forging new partnerships and strengthening existing ones to address the multiple dimensions of homelessness.”

The Palo Alto site, known as Palo Alto Homekey, is a new emergency interim shelter on a 2.3-acre City-owned site and is being co-developed by LifeMoves and the City of Palo Alto. The proposed development located on 1-acre of the property will serve 64 single adults and 24 families every night. The shelter units incorporate a purpose-built design with modular units stacked 2-3 stories to improve site efficiency.

“Thanks to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, especially Supervisors Simitian and Lee, for the County's $4 million investment in critical support services to transition unhoused individuals and families to permanent housing through Palo Alto’s Homekey project," said Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt. "This facility will provide an innovative approach; operated by LifeMoves while leveraging the expertise of the County's Office of Supportive Housing and the Santa Clara County Housing Authority. Residents will receive the support of full wrap-around services to provide them with the medical, social, and other services needed to transition them to better futures. The project is possible through the joint investments of the County, $26 million from the State Homekey fund, $5 million donated by Sobrato Philanthropies, $7 million from LifeMoves toward operations, and through the City of Palo Alto’s contribution of over $11 million in land and operational expenses."

Homekey Branham Lane is a new emergency interim shelter consisting on a 2-acre City-owned site and is being co-developed by LifeMoves and the City of San José. The proposed development will serve 204 singles or couples experiencing homelessness in and around the City of San José every night, 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.

Design features of both sites include ensuite bathrooms and private meeting spaces that promote privacy and security while working closely with clients to secure and return to stable housing. Common area amenities include a shared cooking area, laundry facilities as well as pet accommodations.

“While deployed in Iraq with the military, I lived in a containerized housing unit for a year. It was a small and secured place to rest. The unit was a safe and practical housing solution and it sure beats living in a tent, which I also experienced in the desert,” added Lee.

The Simitian/Lee Challenge Grant Program (formally known as the Service-Enriched Shelter Forgivable Loan Program) will provide up to $40 million of County funding to support the development of up to 16 new interim housing sites (up to $4 million per site) 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 quickly. The motion put forth by Simitian and Lee was approved unanimously.

“We encourage councilmembers and city managers across the County to step up and take advantage of these resources. 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.