Homelessness surges in Mountain View

Sunnyvale, Los Altos also post big increases in Santa Clara County's Point in Time census

In a sign of bad things getting worse, hundreds more newly homeless individuals are living in Mountain View and several other cities, according to the results of a new Santa Clara County homeless census. The new data compiled as part of the biennial Point in Time count paints a picture of desperation, showing that two-thirds of Santa Clara County's homeless are living on the streets because they can't afford housing.

As reported previously, more than 9,700 homeless individuals were counted across Santa Clara County, a 31% increase in just the last two years. But the rise is even more pronounced in Mountain View and several cities in the affluent North County. Since 2017, Mountain View's homeless population jumped from 416 up to 606, a 46% increase. The city now hosts the fourth largest homeless population in the county.

The new numbers are even more jarring for other South Bay cities. Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Milpitas and Los Altos -- cities blamed for driving their homeless populations off to other areas -- all are reporting their own significant increases. Homelessness increased by 41 people in Palo Alto (13%) and by 59 in Milpitas (89%).

The numbers skyrocketed for Los Altos, jumping from just two homeless people in 2017, up to 76 this year. The increase is even larger for Sunnyvale: 371 more homeless, a 147% spike in the past two years.

Even stately Los Altos Hills, among the richest towns in the U.S., reported its first-ever homeless population: two individuals. The tiny town of Monte Sereno now appears to be the only community in Santa Clara County still reporting zero homeless people.

Conducted every two years, the Point in Time census is performed by sending out dozens of volunteers to canvass every street in the county to count as many homeless individuals as they can find. This year's count was conducted in January, and county officials have spent the last six months finalizing the results.

By nature, the count's methodology is imprecise, and experts say that any results should be interpreted as a drastic undercount compared to the true number. For example, the street-by-street survey data may include people camping in parks or living in vehicles, but there is no way it can capture homeless individuals who are couch-surfing or squatting in non-residential buildings.

The Santa Clara County increases mirror other dire homeless numbers being reported in other Bay Area counties. Compared to 2017, homelessness increased by 30% in San Francisco, 45% in Alameda, and 21% in San Mateo counties.

The new data on homelessness shouldn't come as any surprise to Mountain View residents. Over the last two years, the widespread increase in people living out of their vehicles on city streets has made homelessness into a top issue for elected leaders.

But city officials have struggled to stem the problem. A safe-parking program has inched forward, but still lacks capacity to take in anything close to the approximately 300 inhabited vehicles spread throughout the city. Meanwhile, city officials intend to begin restricting street parking for large RVs and trailers in the coming months, leading some to allege that Mountain View is trying to shoo its homeless residents out of town.

The higher level of need in Mountain View is on display on a daily basis at the city's social-service centers, said Tom Myers, executive director of the Community Services Agency. The high homeless count should only come as a surprise to those communities that "have been hiding their heads in the sand," he said.

"The number of our homeless clients has also increased dramatically in the last two years, and these new numbers bear that out," he said. "This is due to the lack of affordable housing. We need housing for those who aren't making a ton of money."

The new report indicates that Mountain View's struggles could be seen as a microcosm for the South Bay as a whole. Across Santa Clara County, the number of people living out of vehicles has more than doubled in the last two years, increasing by more than 1,600 people.

Four out of five individuals who were surveyed say they lived in Santa Clara County prior to losing their housing. One-third of the survey respondents say this was their first experience of being homeless, and just under half say they could have stayed in their homes if they had some kind of basic rental assistance.

That data should be instructional for future aid programs, Myers said. It is far easier and cheaper to provide aid to struggling tenants so they can afford their rent or utilities, especially when compared to the huge costs taxpayers will face if that person becomes homeless.

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42 people like this
Posted by Great News
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jul 12, 2019 at 2:52 pm

Now should we offer even more handouts to deal with the ever increasing drain on our city? Great idea to not ban RVs City Council!! Flood gates are open and you expect the Police to deal with this many people?! Hilarious. Sorry MVPD!

23 people like this
Posted by For the record
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2019 at 2:59 pm

They came after the Jungle in SJ was broken up. It has nothing to do with handouts. It started the week of the jungle raid. You saw the numbers along Steven's creek go up the very week they scattered everyone to the wind.
It's not just MV.

28 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 12, 2019 at 3:12 pm

Silicon Valley cities with low homeless counts are either being dishonest or are being very aggressive about pushing them into neighboring cities. This is a regional problem that needs a regional solution.

43 people like this
Posted by This is not news, the reason is obvious
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 12, 2019 at 3:47 pm

This is not news, the reason is obvious is a registered user.

Are we really surprised? Mountain View is a small city and the only city in the area with lenient policies regarding illegal camping on the streets, the word is out, if you want to live in a vehicle (for any reason) come to Mountain View. I am surprised encampments have not sprouted up in Mountain View's city parks, would that be tolerated too? Find it interesting that the most ardent supporters of no restrictions on RV's live in areas with no RV/vehicle dwellers (like our former mayor)

49 people like this
Posted by polomom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 12, 2019 at 4:46 pm

Mountain View be ready for more RV's coming our way: Oakland just announced the clean up of RV parking areas around the old Home Depot site. It is well known in the bay area that MV is the only city allowing sleeping in cars. It is very disappointing to watch our new City Council pretty much staying away from any decisions to clean up our City. As long as we let contractors profit from their employees sleeping on our streets, as long as we are not identifying our displaced citizens individually, our RV problem is getting worse by the day. And to the grandpa that wants to be close to his Palo Alto grand kids: Go sleep in their driveway, use their electricity and water and enjoy your grand kids. Don't think of Crisanto as your personal Motel RV parking.

29 people like this
Posted by Ok
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 12, 2019 at 4:47 pm

According to the survey, 56% of homeless state the reason for them to be homeless is that they do not have a job. Considering that job market is hot, it is hard to be sympathetic to this reason.

Like this comment
Posted by Put 2 and 2 together
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jul 12, 2019 at 7:21 pm

@Ok - You say the job market is hot, so joblessness is not a reason to be homeless. The tech job market is booming, but what about other jobs? We heard so much in the last election about how jobs would be lost if the minimum wage was raised. That is now yesterday's news, and there's been little new information on whether those predictions were accurate. But if that did happen, we would have joblessness in some categories but not others. Better data would help here.

8 people like this
Posted by LoveYourDNA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 12, 2019 at 7:50 pm

Scott was a friend of mine from High School. I had no idea of his situation but want to send some love and support to him as I totally understand his plight because I too was a resident of Mountain View until 2015. I was forced out of my apartment by a lying, ruthless landlord while working at Google. I'm now in a town northeast of Sac. The only thing I miss about the Bay Area is all the great food options. Hang in there, Scott! Your old friend, Julie Beddome

32 people like this
Posted by Not really
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2019 at 8:30 pm

“Silicon Valley cities with low homeless counts are either being dishonest or are being very aggressive about pushing them into neighboring cities.“

No, the other cities are not “pushing” them onto neighboring cities. They’re just enforcing their city ordinances. If Mountain View had enforced ours we wouldn’t have this problem. People are camping on our streets because it’s cheap rent and we let them do it. It doesn’t mean that they have no place else to live.

2 people like this
Posted by another community member
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2019 at 9:43 pm

another community member is a registered user.

Does anyone else find a missed allignment of community values and resources that on Latham and Shoreline, over $500,000 is being spent to build a community garden Web Link right by homes with private garden spaces, all the while, on the same streets are homeless people that are being told there isn't parking spaces or resources for them.

Can't help but think a homeless person looking out their car window on Latham and Shoreline thinks MV cares more about petunias than poor people.

48 people like this
Posted by Sorry, no
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jul 13, 2019 at 5:33 am

@another community member

This is about individual values and not community values. So enough with the shaming. People are living out of their cars because it has become an allowable option especially in MV. The word is out that we tolerate it. You have to know a poor person unwilling to work, or full of excuses like I do to understand the psychology of it. First of all, he is a very nice and polite person on the surface. Humble as heck. Lots of pity stories. But always looking for a hand out. And whenever the words work, sacrifice and responsibility come up, he is a master at the many reasons and excuses why he falls short. He has run his family's generosity dry. Good people that tried so hard to help him. He is also an alcoholic. And I can easily say that 50% of homeless fall into this category. And then MV creates a magnate and utopia to support this type of living. Congratulations. Many of these people reap what they sow. And the city reaps what it sows and only encourages more. We all might as well start feeding stray cats because they are so cute..

9 people like this
Posted by Boomer
a resident of Gemello
on Jul 13, 2019 at 9:11 am

And there it is, the inevitable comparison of our human neighbors with animals. Boomer values on display.

39 people like this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2019 at 9:46 am

Rely on the online virtue-signallers to trivialize a serious situation into glib slogans ("comparison of our human neighbors with animals") so they can avoid ever addressing the real issues, while also feeling superior.

10 people like this
Posted by Boomer
a resident of Gemello
on Jul 13, 2019 at 9:50 am

There's that lovable Boomer slang: "virtue-signal", when you don't have an actual argument. Guess what, people who aren't sociopaths find comparing people to stray animals to reflect poorly on you and your values. Keep dehumanizing folks and ranting about virtue-signalling, since it puts up a giant sign that lets everyone else know they can ignore you.

32 people like this
Posted by Ok
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 13, 2019 at 10:32 am

@Put 2 and 2 together, let me help you with data.
Quick search on Indeed shows >15000 entry level jobs within 25 miles
Web Link
Any more excuses not to work?

8 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 13, 2019 at 4:33 pm

So the RV people. Are they homeless, or are they ovehicle-dwelling residents of Mountain View? Because this newspaper has call them both.

I guess it depends on how they want to use these people in a given situation.

18 people like this
Posted by Just my opinion
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 13, 2019 at 5:15 pm

I say we get rid of em. Enough of my taxes go to their RV cleanups and stints of voluntary. Get a job or get on out.

3 people like this
Posted by PV
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2019 at 5:24 pm

It’s false that there are homeless in all Bay Area towns. For example, I have never seen a homeless person here in PV. Why? It’s a rural town, and therefore discourages it. However when you live in a city, of course there will be homeless. What do you expect??

9 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 13, 2019 at 5:55 pm

@PV - I have seen homeless people in the woods in Portola Valley. A rural area has more places to set up camp and fewer police to chase you out, though the police may be more aggressive if someone rats on them.

3 people like this
Posted by Really So Easy?
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2019 at 5:56 pm

My young adult daughter has only a high school diploma. She has worked for many years (e.g Great America, Target, etc). I told her to get a second job this summer because most employers do not want to give 40 hours to their employees and she really needs the money. But despite the fact that she has been earning money since she was 13/14 (soccer referee) and has worked for major corporations, she has had a hard time finding a second job. There are pretty much no responses from any sort of entry level "office" type positions, let alone retail/fast food. I can only imagine how much harder it is if you don't fit a certain profile: younger, more "energetic," the right sort of look, etc.

3 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2019 at 11:17 am

The Business Man is a registered user.

Here is the REAL SOLUTION of affordable housing:

The State must create a database of ALL existing residential units that ACTUALLY EXIST! THIS IS MANDATORY TO ALL PROPERTIES!

Then they must create a database of all OWNED residential units that ACTUALLY EXIST! THIS IS MANDATORY TO ALL PROPERTIES!

Then they must create a database that accounts for all USED residential units that ACTUALLY EXIST! THIS IS MANDATORY TO ALL PROPERTIES!

Then they must create a database consisting of all UNUSED residential units that ACTUALLY EXIST! THIS IS MANDATORY TO ALL PROPERTIES!

OF COURSE the Housing industry will oppose this. Why?

This will provide the public the ACTUAL manipulated SHORTAGE of HOUSING in California.

Also there can be taxation designed so that for those properties NOT USED to be levied to fund public housing projects. This will be because the housing crisis allows for this extreme action as long as these units are not listed or used because it is against the state anti-trust and price manipulation laws.

It can be avoided if the properties are made available to the market.

But I will not be surprised that there is as much as an additional 10-15% of units just being withheld from USE because it makes other properties more valuable. And given Proposition 13, they pay pitiful property taxes on units that just sit and decompose due to intentional neglect. No upkeep means that the taxes are the only cost.

5 people like this
Posted by Polomom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 14, 2019 at 3:34 pm

Polomom is a registered user.

@The Businessman
Other cities already tax unused housing, the ghost tax. Vancouver is an example and Honolulu is currently looking at this solution to their housing shortage.

1 person likes this
Posted by DC
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 14, 2019 at 6:10 pm

Just a note. It was always known to the RV world you can always park at a Walmart overnight. This rule may change given the amount of abuses seen at ... the Mtn View Walmart. What happened to the Latham street RV problem?

There are job $15 / hour and $120,000 that can pay a rent, which jobs are these workers applying for?

4 people like this
Posted by Polomom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 14, 2019 at 6:57 pm

Polomom is a registered user.

Every Walmart has the right to refuse overnight parking ( 1 night only at the far corner of the store). Mountain View was never on the list of Walmart’s to allow overnight parking. So are a lot of other Walmart’s in the nation, you have to check beforehand.

7 people like this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2019 at 12:30 pm

Among the long list of things "Boomer" (or "LOL" or whatever throwaway alias that verbose troll uses at the moment) shows no inkling of understanding is that virtue-signaling isn't just a central factor in US political life today, acknowledged even among its practitioners. Far beyond that (and in variations, and without that fairly recent name) it's been seriously studied for decades. One scholarly book exhaustively explored the self-congratulatory ego factor in US leftist-bourgeois behavior, probably before someone who repeats "boomer" derisively was even born, yet describing the logic and thinking of our current troll comprehensively. Denying something as widely demonstrated as virtue-signaling; dismissing all who question current orthodox feel-good dogma as immoral ("sociopaths").

For arrogant certainty of that kind is most pronounced in teens and 20-somethings -- those just barely old enough to think they understand everything. Political religiosity starts young (Orwell: "Every intelligent boy of sixteen is a socialist" [at that age you see only the promises, not the pitfalls]). Some never outgrow it (compare Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and their supporters of similar ages), but the general trend is for people to become more wise and less leftist with life experience, a process young adults aren't yet in any position to understand (though they explain it away to themselves anyway -- more human nature).

Good luck trying to sensibly deal with any social issues at all (let alone those as complex as RV squatters) with notions like "Boomer's" flying around.

3 people like this
Posted by where's the middle ground?
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2019 at 1:09 pm

Let them stay without restrictions or ban them, where's the middle ground?

Why no tax or fine the RV's the cover any possible cleanup cost/services, but stay far away from the unethical business of towing or displacing the RV homes of already vulnerable people.

Isn't that how most city services work, we ask people to pay for services that bring about a greater good for all. Let's just normalize their existence and ask them to pay to cover any harm to the community.

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