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Santa Clara County Census & Survey 2015 The Need for “Housing First” Strategies to End Homelessness DESTINATION: HOME is a public-private partnership and a backbone for collective impact strategies to end homelessness in Santa Clara County. The organization was borne out of a Blue Ribbon Commission established in 2008 by then San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and then County Supervisor Don Gage. Jennifer Loving serves as the organization’s Executive Director. She is a passionate and articulate spokesperson for its work. Jennifer described how, in 2011, Destination: Home adopted a nationally recognized “housing first” model that focuses on getting clients into housing as fast as possible, JENNIFER LOVING supported by case management and other services to help them become more self-sufficient and remain housed. “For the chronically homeless, we want to break the cycle of homelessness. For those who are in crisis and at-risk of becoming homeless, we want to take preventative measures and keep them housed. This approach is more sustainable and it actually reduces the public burden to care for the homeless.” Every two years, the County of Santa Clara wages a community- wide effort to conduct a census and administer a survey of homeless people. The census uses a consistent federally- approved methodology and is mandated by the federal government. Here’s what their 2015 report revealed. • There are over 6,500 homeless people in Santa Clara County. • 71 percent are unsheltered – living on the street or in tents, vehicles, etc. • The majority (60-90 percent) of homeless veterans, youths aged 18-24, and unaccompanied children are unsheltered. • Close to 40 percent of the homeless are women. • There are 266 homeless families with 908 members. • More than 30 percent are experiencing homelessness for the first time in their lives and of those, 51 percent have been without a home for a year or longer. • 65 percent reported one or more health challenges such as physical, mental or developmental disabilities, substance abuse, and post traumatic stress disorder. • Close to 70 percent are homeless because they can’t afford rent. • More than 90 percent said YES when asked if they would want affordable permanent housing if it became available. Th e Public Costs of Homelessness In 2015, Santa Clara County and Destination: Home released a detailed analysis of the cost of countywide homelessness prepared by the Economic Roundtable. Results were derived from an analysis of data on 104,000 individuals over the period between 2007 and 2012. The traditional approach of managing homelessness relied on isolated, stop-gap measures to deal with a maze of complex challenges. The “housing first” approach allows people to transition in place, getting the services they need, with an eye toward ending homelessness. Provided by Destination: Home • In 2013, Destination: Home took on a role as the County’s Continuum of Care Board and worked with regional partners to develop the Community Plan to End Homelessness 2015-2020. The Community Plan serves as a countywide road- map to ending homelessness and a guide for community leaders as they make decisions regarding needs, priorities, funding and programs over the next several years. “From 2013 to 2015 we saw a 14 percent countywide reduction in homelessness, with more reduction in cities that have been aggressive in implementing housing first strategies,” GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN Average public cost of homelessness = $520 million a year. • 53 percent went to healthcare. • 34 percent went to justice system services. • 13 percent went to social services. • 80 percent of the homeless foster youth studied had a mental disorder. • Over 60 percent of homeless service costs went to helping about 10 percent of the homeless population. • The public cost to service people who were not housed averaged about $20,000 more per year than those who were housed. JULY / AUGUST 2016 25