Report: Santa Clara County sees big surge in homeless population

Biennial count shows 31% increase in homeless individuals over 2017

New data released by Santa Clara County shows that homelessness is a rapidly growing problem, with thousands of additional residents living on the streets compared to just two years ago.

The biennial homeless census, which took place in January, found that there are now 9,706 homeless residents in the county, up more than 31% over the 2017 count, according to a statement released Thursday. It's the largest single increase going back more than a decade, and shows the population has escalated since 2015.

The report is "preliminary" and does not include most of the granular data, including homeless counts for individual cities in the county, with the exception of San Jose. The city of San Jose's homeless population reportedly increased from 4,350 in 2017 to 6,172 in this year's count.

Among those who are homeless in Santa Clara County, the latest count found an increase in chronically homeless individuals -- up to 2,470 from 2,097 two years ago -- and the percentage of homeless residents who are deemed "unsheltered" is on the rise, indicating that the growing homeless population is more likely to be living in vehicles, encampments or on the street.

That won't come as a surprise to Mountain View residents, who have witnessed a significant increase in the number of vehicle dwellers in recent years. The latest count by the city found that 290 inhabited vehicles are currently on Mountain View's streets, including large RVs parked along Crisanto Avenue and Shoreline Boulevard.

Concerns about vehicle dwellers became a hot-button issue in the city during the 2018 election as city leaders sought to give homeless residents a viable alternative before imposing parking restrictions, including a slow rollout of a safe parking program. In March, a majority of the City Council agreed to consider an ordinance banning parked RVs and trailers.

Joe Simitian, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement that the high cost of housing -- along with a housing shortage -- is making a bad problem worse, and that the county must pursue efforts to prevent homelessness. The county's $950 million Measure A housing bond is a good start, and the county has already committed $234 million of those funds to help build a collective 1,437 new units for "vulnerable members of the community," Simitian said.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said the report shows San Jose must "double down" on homelessness, and that that the "NIMBY" mentality in Silicon Valley shouldn't stand in the way of housing homeless residents.

"We all have a shared responsibility to address this crisis -- every city and every neighborhood. That means we must house homeless neighbors here, not the proverbial 'somewhere else.'"

The new homelessness numbers come from the biennial Point in Time count, a street-by-street canvassing effort conducted in January with the help of dozens of volunteers. While the count produces a snapshot of homelessness for one day, experts warn that any results should be interpreted as a severe undercount. Individuals who are couchsurfing, doubling up in homes or living out of garages or other such spaces will likely be missed by the homeless count.

Tom Myers, executive director of the Community Services Agency (CSA) of Mountain View and Los Altos, said he was expecting an increase in the homeless count but still was surprised to see how much it had risen since 2017. While the numbers for Mountain View have yet to be released, he said the demand for homeless services such as food and case management has risen steadily each year. So far, CSA has served 671 homeless individuals in the 2018-19 fiscal year, up from 597 from the prior year.

The trend is that more and more people are "falling" into homelessness and into poverty in Silicon Valley, particularly seniors who are struggling to keep up with the rapid increase in the cost of living, Myers said. He said he believes the full report will show seniors are among the big increase in homelessness across the county, especially in Mountain View.

"It is ironic and difficult to swallow that we live in an area where there is such an incredible amount of wealth and so many people are falling into poverty," he said. "It really boggles the mind."

Santa Clara County is hardly the exception. Preliminary data on homelessness in Alameda County shows an even larger increase in homelessness of 43%, from 5,629 homeless individuals in 2017 to 8,022 in 2019. San Francisco's homeless count increased to 8,011, up 17% from 2017.

County staff say additional information on the 2019 homeless census, including Mountain View's numbers, will be available in the full release of the report in early July.

Mark Noack contributed to this report

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9 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 16, 2019 at 2:53 pm

I hope the county can survey many of these people to find out what all of a sudden happened to force so many residents into homelessness in just the last 2 years.

28 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 16, 2019 at 4:31 pm

And how many are out of state who are taking advantage of the Bay Area tolerance to the homeless and its resources?

2 people like this
Posted by @Hmmm
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 16, 2019 at 5:48 pm

Gee, why don't you tell us? That's the reason why you're here, right? Right?

9 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 16, 2019 at 6:06 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

In response to Hmmm you said:

“And how many are out of state who are taking advantage of the Bay Area tolerance to the homeless and its resources?”

Amazing you assume that the county is being “invaded”. But let’s look at a report from the Santa Clara County (Web Link) which stated:


The primary cause of an individual’s homelessness is often difficult to pinpoint, as it is often the result of multiple and compounding causes that can be both personal and systemic in nature. When asked to identify the primary event or condition that led to their current homelessness experience, NEARLY HALF (45%) OF RESPONDENTS IN NORTH COUNTY CITED LOSING A JOB AS THE REASON, slightly higher than when compared to Santa Clara County (37%). Fifteen percent (15%) REPORTED ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE AS THE PRIMARY REASON FOR THEIR HOMELESSNESS, 12% REPORTED BEING EVICTED AS THE CATALYST, 7% REPORTED AN ILLNESS OR MEDICAL PROBLEM, and 14% reported divorce, separation, or a breakup.

Although not among the five most frequent responses, other reported causes of homelessness in North County also included mental health issues (7%), argument with a family member (5%), and foreclosure (2%).

Why do you make such an assumption it is invaders? When you look at this situation the only category you can argue is because of the actions by the homeless is the 15% for Alcohol and Drug use, 12% for eviction, 7% argument with family member (most likely getting arrested and ordered to leave) and 2% foreclosure. So to add them up about 39% is able to be argued as the cause of the homeless person themselves. At least 6 out of 10 homeless can be argued as not primarily responsible for their situation at all.

And also let’s look at people who moved here to work at jobs that got cut in order to make business more profitable here. Let’s look at the WORKING homeless.

In effect you just wanted to create a scapegoat regarding the worsening problem of affordable housing and the lack of it causing homelessness.

12 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 17, 2019 at 10:22 am

It's hard to believe the homeless problem is about losing a job when Santa Clara county unemployment rate is 2.9 %
It's seems to be more the cost of housing instead.

2 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 17, 2019 at 3:44 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.


Just understand that the rate you describe is for those who qulify for unemployment insurance and are currently collecting. That figure is not even close to an accurate representation.

Many people are working inconsistantly as well as on VERY short term projects. One major group called A3 solutions tends to hire people for IT work for as short as one day. But that kind of work doesn't allow for unepmloyment benefits.

Simply put, no one should not rely on this poor reepresention of employment.

5 people like this
Posted by Proud Taxpayer
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2019 at 5:16 pm

Proud Taxpayer is a registered user.

Roughly 1/4 of them came from outside the area.
74% of respondents in North County reported they were living in Santa Clara County at the time they most recently became homeless. This is slightly lower than the 83% of respondents from Santa Clara County as a whole.
23% of respondents in North County reported they were living in another county in
3% reported they were living out of state at the time they lost their housing.

11 people like this
Posted by Proud Taxpayer
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2019 at 5:30 pm

Proud Taxpayer is a registered user.

What's missing from the report is why don't they leave the area? There are cheaper places to live in California. There are places with different jobs and lower unemployment than here.
Not to be rude, but this guidance has worked for years and years.
If you can't afford the rent here, consider moving to someplace with lower rents.
If you can't find a job here, consider moving to someplace you can find a job.

4 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 17, 2019 at 8:00 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

Proud Taxpayer,

OK let’s argue that your right.

Let’s say that the homeless should leave.

How many of them perform low paid but critical services in Santa Clara?

A recent CBS News report found here Web Link, demonstrates the critical services done by low paid workers.

Many of them are critical to supporting your quality of life. Let’s say they do as you suggest and leave. Simply put there goes your cheap cost of getting those services because there will be no one to perform it without SIGNIFICANT raise in pay. Just imagine those services costing you as little as 10% more than you already pay?

How many working homeless are there in Santa Clara?

That is very hard to uncover. Because in effect no one is even doing any research regarding the Sanata Clara County. What research I uncovered here (Web Link) says:

“Survey respondents were asked what prevented them from obtaining housing. The majority (62%) reported that they could not afford rent. Over one half (56%) reported a lack of job or income, followed by 23% who reported that they had no money for moving costs, and 20% who reported bad credit as an obstacle to obtaining permanent housing.”

If only 56% reported a lack of a job or income, than one can simply state that 44% of these people are working or employed. These are working homeless. That is simply almost half of the homeless in Santa Clara.

What excuse do we have in understanding that half of the homeless are not paid enough to afford any residence at all?

Simply put, the valley has a serious wealth disparity problem.

I am justifiably anxious if the suggestion you made is followed through. If that occurs, the quality of life in the valley will simply deteriorate until the market provides earnings enough for anyone working in the valley the resources of a residence.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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