our Homelessness Q&A

Homelessness Q&A
What is homelessness? Homelessness means not having a “fixed, regular, and
adequate night-time residence.” People who are “sheltered” homeless are using
emergency housing, like a shelter, or transitional housing. The “unsheltered”
homeless are on the streets, in abandoned buildings, cars, tunnels, or in other places
not meant for human habitation.
Who are the homeless? Adults, families, children, youth, and the elderly are
homeless. The homeless include those who hold jobs and those who are
unemployed. They come from all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. They include
those with drug and alcohol dependencies, the disabled, and the mentally ill, but not
all people experiencing homelessness live with these conditions.
What are the causes of homelessness? Nationwide, the primary causes are loss of a
job, debt, family problems (including eviction by a family member), abuse at home,
incarceration, physical or mental illness or disability, and drug/alcohol abuse. In
Santa Clara County, lack of affordable housing and financial instability are the two
main causes.
What is “chronic” homelessness? A chronically homeless person is “either an
unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been
continuously homeless for a year or more, or an unaccompanied individual with a
disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past
three years.”
How many homeless people are there in Santa Clara County? According to the 2013
Santa Clara County Homeless Census and Survey, 7,631 people in the county are
homeless on any given night. Over the course of a year, 19,063 people in Santa Clara
County will experience an episode of homelessness.
Is the number of homeless people in our county increasing? Yes. The 2013 Census
results showed an increase of 8% countywide over the 2011 Census and an increase
of 18% in the City of San Jose.
How do our rates of homelessness compare to those of other regions in the U.S.?
Santa Clara County’s homeless population increased 8% from 2011 to 2013,
whereas HUD documented a decrease of 9% in total homelessness in the U.S. San
Jose/Santa Clara County now has the nation’s seventh-highest homeless population
and the highest percentage of unsheltered veterans
How many of our homeless live in encampment? There 1,500 individuals living in
hundreds of encampments in San Jose.
© 2014 HomeFirst Services of Santa Clara County
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Do people in our community die while homeless? Yes. The average life expectancy for
a chronically homeless person is just 47 years compared to nearly 79 years for the
general population.
How much does homelessness cost our community? People who are chronically
homeless frequently require expensive public services such as emergency rooms,
ambulances, police and fire personnel, jails, and shelters. The cost of housing is far
cheaper than these services. It’s estimated that the cost of a chronically homeless
person on the streets is approximately $60,000 per year but the cost of permanent
housing is just $16,000 per year.
What is Santa Clara County doing to solve homelessness? Efforts to end
homelessness have never been better coordinated between homeless service
providers, county and city departments, the Veterans Administration, and the local
Housing Authority. One of the most significant developments was the formation of the
Housing 1000 community campaign, which as the goal of housing 1,000 chronically
homeless people by the end of 2014; so far, about 800 have been housed using a
successful strategy called Housing First.
Why should we as community end homelessness?
Everyone deserves a decent place to live. We would rather live in a community where
everyone has a home and where people don’t die on the streets. What we have done
in the past—ignoring the problem, letting people die, cleaning up encampments only
to have them spring back up, spending millions of dollars on law enforcement, health
care, and other expensive services—hasn’t worked. Now with the Housing First
strategy, we have a real solution. With more resources and the involvement of more
of the community, we can continue this success.
What can I do to help?
• Contribute financially whatever you can. We rely heavily on private and
corporate donations. You can make a donation online from any page of our
• Bring in-kind donations. Year-round, we need clean, new socks, underwear,
t-shirts; razors and small toiletry items; blankets and sleeping bags; and
large containers of powdered laundry soap.
• Volunteer. Individuals and groups can volunteer at one of our shelters,
family sites, or kitchens, or even at their places of work.
• Advocate for more affordable housing. We know how to get people off the
streets if we can find them a place to live. Housing is the answer to
507 Valley Way
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 539-2100
[email protected]
© 2014 HomeFirst Services of Santa Clara County
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