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San Jose: 42% spike in homeless population

Emily Deruy, The Mercury News on

Published in Home and Consumer News

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Aligning with what many residents have suspected, new figures released Thursday show that the number of homeless people in the nation's 10th largest city has spiked dramatically -- 42% in two years.

According to the 2019 point-in-time count, a federally mandated count of the area's homeless population, San Jose has seen the number of homeless residents jump from 4,350 in 2017 to 6,172 in 2019. Santa Clara County as a whole has seen a 31% uptick, from 7,394 to 9,706. Across the state, cities and counties are seeing similar increases.

"It's a systems failure," said Jen Loving, the CEO of Destination: Home, an organization that has partnered with the city and county to house homeless people.

From individuals and cities opposing new affordable housing developments to the state's spending habits, Loving said, communities haven't made ending homelessness a priority. And with some of the highest housing costs in the nation, that leaves many San Jose residents -- particularly people of color, who are disproportionately likely to work low-wage service jobs -- at risk of winding up on the streets.

Mayor Sam Liccardo agrees.

"This report calls for us collectively to end the reign of the NIMBY in Silicon Valley," Liccardo said, referring to community opposition (Not In My BackYard) to housing and services for homeless individuals. "We all have a shared responsibility to address this crisis -- every city, every neighborhood -- and that means we must house homeless neighbors here and not the proverbial somewhere else."

 

San Jose's first permanently supportive housing development recently opened at 2nd and Keyes streets, bringing more than 100 people off the streets. And later this year, projects using funding from the 2016 affordable housing bond measure -- Measure A -- will house hundreds more residents. Dozens of other Measure A-funded projects are in the works, said Jacqueline MacLean, with the county's Office of Supportive Housing.

In the last three and a half years, more than 1,300 formerly homeless veterans have moved into San Jose housing. More than 500 families on the verge of homelessness have received emergency grants, and San Jose voted to put 45% of its housing funds toward serving extremely low-income residents. All told, nearly 7,000 people living in Santa Clara County have moved into permanent housing since 2015. And, city and county officials, they have helped thousands more avoid homelessness through grants and other programs.

But it's not enough.

For every person who leaves homelessness in the area, another two to three enter.

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