San Jose’s unhoused population is not as big as initially reported, but the number of chronically homeless people continues to grow, new county data shows.
A report released last month shows San Jose with 6,650 homeless people in 2022—a drop of roughly 100 people from when preliminary data was released in May. Despite the drop, the current homeless population in the city is still the largest San Jose has seen in 13 years. The change in San Jose didn’t impact the overall count for Santa Clara County, which is at 10,028 homeless people—the region’s highest number since 2007.
Peter Connery, vice president of Applied Survey Research, said the discrepancy stems from a small number of faulty count entries. Applied Survey Research, which leads census and survey efforts to count the local homeless population, conducted an audit and corrected the data.
“Overall entries did not change, but only some location and jurisdictional assignments did slightly,” Connery told San José Spotlight.
The report, which also includes survey results from roughly 1,000 homeless people, comes nearly a year after volunteers finished the “point in time” count last February. The biennial tally is required by the federal government. The report is critical for officials, nonprofits and advocates to understand the homelessness crisis and identify the needs of people living on the streets.
The findings, which are often undercounts and statistical estimations, reveal how San Jose and Santa Clara County are struggling to help some of the most vulnerable residents. The number of unsheltered homeless people, defined as people living in tents, makeshift shelters or vehicles, is down in San Jose from 84% in 2019 to 75% last year.
But the South Bay is reporting more cases of chronic homelessness, or people being homeless for more than a year. In 2022, 1,906 people were chronically homeless in San Jose, up from 1,553 people in 2019.
Advocates said the drop in unsheltered homeless people is not enough.
“It’s not really a drop, because regardless of their status, they’re still homeless,” Ray Bramson, chief impact officer at Destination: Home and San José Spotlight columnist, told San José Spotlight. “We need permanent solutions if we want to end their homelessness.”
The homeless population cited high rents, the lack of job or income and the lack of housing as the top obstacles in Santa Clara County, according to the report.
Geneva Strickland, a former unhoused resident, said the results are not surprising. She was among dozens of people conducting the 2022 survey.
“We have inflation on top of crazy high rents around here,” Strickland told San José Spotlight. “People assume everyone can go back to work, but that’s not the case.”
According to county data, roughly a third of the homeless population is unable to work, while 41% is looking for jobs. Roughly 28% aren’t seeking employment.
San Jose has spent the last year racing to build more transitional housing, including tiny homes, to get residents off the streets. The city has helped roughly 700 people into housing, city officials said. With hundreds of temporary homes under construction and in the pipeline, Strickland hopes San Jose can keep the momentum going.
“I’m not thrilled about tiny homes, but it’s good that those projects are helping,” she said. “It’s better than the streets.”
The report also shows how neighboring cities are seeing spikes in their homeless populations.
Santa Clara saw an increase of 35% from 326 people in 2019 to 440 people in 2022. Campbell’s unhoused population jumped from 74 to 216 people over the same period, a 191% increase. Milpitas, another South Bay city struggling with its growing homeless crisis, saw a 119% increase—from 125 homeless people to 274 over the same period.
Milpitas Councilmember Anthony Phan said the ongoing housing crisis, the economic downturn cause by the pandemic and the previous mayor’s stonewalling of homeless solutions all contributed to the spike in the city’s unhoused population. Now the city is providing rent and mortgage relief, building hundreds of affordable homes and exploring options such as tiny homes.
“We have to prioritize solutions and every city should be working proactively to combat homelessness,” Phan told San José Spotlight. “I’m hopeful the number would decrease by a lot (this year).”
Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.
Editor’s Note: Destination: Home CEO Jen Loving sits on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.