San Jose lawmakers approve $5 million toward homeless services

San Jose lawmakers on Tuesday unanimously voted to approve a slew of housing initiatives with the goal of addressing the region’s growing homeless crisis, granting nearly $5 million in funds toward multiple programs including a new motel voucher program as an alternative to overcrowded emergency shelters and a program providing personal hygiene services.

Motel Voucher Program gets $1.95 million

The big-ticket item — a contract with the nonprofit LifeMoves — will shelter 60 families inside motel rooms up until Dec. 2020. The vouchers will primarily be awarded to families with small children and victims of domestic violence.

“While permanent housing is the optimal strategy to end homelessness, emergency shelters and other types of crisis housing, including motel stays, play a critical role in the response to homelessness,” said housing director Jacky Morales-Ferrand. “Motel vouchers add capacity to the homeless shelter system when emergency shelters are full. In San Jose, the number of emergency shelter beds, particularly for families and survivors of domestic violence, lacks capacity to meet the need.”

LifeMoves operates several types of programs throughout the Bay Area, including a safe parking program in San Jose and a similar motel voucher program in San Mateo County. The program will include services such as case management, community resources for other supportive services such as child care, food assistance, benefits enrollment, physical and mental health care, income support and finding permanent housing.

The program was met with little to no resistance from the City Council, but some lawmakers, Councilmembers Magdalena Carrasco and Sylvia Arenas, voiced concern over the selection of the motels and the privacy of program participants, being that they’re victims of domestic violence.

Housing deputy director Ragan Henninger quelled some of their worries, saying that her department was still in the process of performing outreach for the selection of motels.

“LifeMoves is doing what they can to have as many hotel partners in the fold,” said Henninger. “But we don’t have all of the motels in our partnership, yet. We’re still doing that outreach, building those connections.”

Project WeHope secures $671,350

City lawmakers also awarded funding for program called Dignity on Wheels, which provides unhoused residents with mobile personal hygiene services such as showers, laundry and restrooms in addition to case management. A new service, called a mobile rest shop was also added, providing individuals with phone charging stations, job assistance resources, such as completing a resume, assessment tests for housing programs and free haircuts.

“Dignity on Wheels provides mobile showers and laundry to unsheltered individuals up to six days per week at different locations throughout San Jose,” said Morales-Ferrand. “Drop-in shower services for up to 30 individuals and drop-in laundry services that may provide up to 18 single loads of laundry are offered per daily six-hour session… in either the morning or evening hours.”

In 2017, 956 unhoused individuals were provided with 5,520 showers and 1,592 loads of laundry.

Councilmember Dev Davis raised concerns about how people will be notified about where the trailers that provide the services are located.

Pastor Paul Bains, founder of the nonprofit Project WeHope, said the homeless community has an extensive “word-of-mouth” network and access to cell phones. The nonprofit also posts flyers around the city and provides information on its services through its website and mobile app.

“So there’s a variety of ways because as we like to say it’s different strokes for different folks,” Bains said. “And we do have an app. You can hit ‘see locations,’ you just hit on that button, and it’ll tell you where our locations are.”

The program will provide up to 500 unhoused individuals with services per week. Housing officials estimate that “thousands” in the homeless community will be served with Project WeHope’s services through June 2020.

Bill Wilson Center receives a whopping $1.5 million

The center received the sizeable grant for its programs aimed at keeping kids and teenagers off of the streets. The grant will fund the rental subsidy program, which will house 70 families and youth and a new housing program for foster kids and youth on probation from the ages of 18 to 25 years old.

“We’re going to serve those youth who aren’t eligible for money aging out of foster care, and kids involved in the justice system,” said Sparky Harlan, CEO of the Bill Wilson Center. “These are 18 year olds who have not graduated from high school, have no employment history, often have a criminal record, bad credit, and basically are not a real easy population to put into permanent housing long term.”

The new housing program for youth will help these kids transition to permanent housing. In 2018, the Billl Wilson Center helped “91 percent of the 22 households served” exit to permanent housing. The grant will help fund the program until June 2021.

People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) is awarded $935,000

The group received the funds for its homeless outreach program designed to help individuals with services and housing placement.

Since 2015, the nonprofit has partnered with the city in building relationships with local homeless communities in “targeted locations,” including downtown San Jose, Martin Luther King and Tully Branch Libraries, as well as the Coyote Creek Project Areas. About $35,000 of the newly awarded funds will go to a new vehicle for PATH to perform outreach.

Officials said 1,315 homeless individuals were helped in 2015. The program has provided more than 4,300 case management sessions and secured 107 homeless individuals with permanent housing.

“Homeless street outreach is an important part of the overall coordinated system of homeless care,” Morales-Ferrand said. “Outreach teams establish relationships, give people advice and support, and increase the likelihood that homeless individuals will access necessary services that will help them move off the streets.”

Housing officials estimate that the grant will provide 270 new homeless people with assistance, 3,000 with outreach and 1,200 case management sessions.

City funds and California state grants were used as the source for the $5 million in funds awarded by San Jose lawmakers Tuesday to the various nonprofits tackling homelessness.

Contact Nadia Lopez at nadia@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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