A homeless encampment comprised of cars and RVs
A portion of a homeless encampment along Coyote Creek near Corie Court in San Jose is seen Monday, May 15, 2023, as city crews swept the camp and broke down homes and tents. Photo by Joseph Geha.

For every one Santa Clara County household that was housed in 2023, nearly two households became homeless, a recent report reveals.

Approximately 4,297 new households experienced homelessness for the first time last year, according to the county’s year-end analysis of its 2020-25 Community Plan to End Homelessness. That’s a 24% jump from the 3,473 households reported in 2022.

Destination: Home CEO Jennifer Loving said one of the reasons homelessness keeps increasing in the county is the area’s high rents, combined with the end of pandemic supports, such as rent moratoriums. The average monthly rent in San Jose, which has the largest homeless population in the county, is $2,900, according to recent data from Zillow.

“You are almost entirely going to be rent burdened,” Loving  told San José Spotlight. “You make $2,000 a month, your rent is $1,800 a month and you’re trying to live. That’s crazy.”

The county tallied 9,903 unhoused people in its 2023 point-in-time count, a biennial survey of the region’s homeless residents.

The five-year plan to end homelessness is run by the county Office of Supportive Housing’s Continuum of Care program and housing nonprofit Destination: Home.

Since 2020, the county has placed more than 13,800 people in permanent housing. Of that number, nearly 4,500 were housed in 2023, according to the report. Roughly 28% of those housed were families with children, 14% were veterans and 10% were seniors 65 and older in 2023.

Advocates also have to contend with funds running out from Measure A, a $950 million bond voters passed in 2016, that has largely been used to build housing for homeless residents. Prop. 1, a statewide measure, could allocate funding to build mental health treatment facilities and housing for the homeless if voters pass it in California’s March 5 primary election.

Approximately 56 affordable housing developments totaling 5,800 homes are open, under construction or in the pipeline, including PATH Villas at 4th, which opened in January and houses nearly 100 formerly homeless seniors.

Todd Langton, executive director of homelessness nonprofit Agape Silicon Valley and the founder of the Coalition for the Unhoused of Silicon Valley, said even though people are being housed, the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time makes sense. He’s seen newly unhoused people on the streets and said slow bureaucracy is largely to blame for the county’s homelessness crisis.

“The system is simply a dysfunctional mess and it needs to be consolidated, bring all those silos in together and get everybody working on the same page,” he told San José Spotlight.

The report also includes analysis of other efforts to reduce homelessness. Approximately 19,575 people have been placed in temporary housing and shelters, with the average wait time for permanent housing being approximately three to four months, according to Hilary Armstrong, deputy director of the office of supportive housing. Approximately 25% of people in temporary housing moved to permanent housing in 2023.

More than 28,200 people have received preventive services since 2020, including rent subsidies that Loving said average between $5,000 to $6,000 — with the goal of supplementing rent until the resident can pay it. The county can subsidize 5,500 homes for both permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing, which provides a time-limited subsidy to cover rent for approximately three years, after which rent is lowered to be more affordable, Armstrong said.

Armstrong said more than 1,000 affordable homes funded by Measure A will open in 2024. She remains optimistic about the future of ending homelessness in the county, as long as the resources are provided.

“These are real people who are being housed, and so as much as we kind of get lost in numbers, I think what gives us hope to keep going is seeing that we are still making progress,” she told San José Spotlight.

Langton said to significantly reduce homelessness, the county and its cities need to repurpose empty buildings and build more housing with supportive services.

“We can’t just keep throwing tons of money at the problem and hoping that things get resolved,” he said.

Contact Annalise Freimarck at [email protected] or follow @annalise_ellen on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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