Santa Clara County seeks funds to buy hotels to house homeless
A homeless encampment in San Jose is pictured in this file photo.

    As Santa Clara County’s homeless population continues to grow, county officials are moving to turn more hotel properties into permanent and interim housing.

    The county is vying for $19 million in state CARES Act funds through California’s project Homekey to purchase and refurbish two hotel properties and turn them into interim housing for the most vulnerable.

    The properties being eyed include an Extended Stay America property in Milpitas on Hillview Court and the Santa Clara Inn in San Jose. Combined, the hotels would provide 106 units.

    The state saw success with Roomkey, a project funded by the CARES Act to provide temporary housing in hotels across the state, including Santa Clara County, in response to COVID-19. Now the focus has turned to creating longer-lasting solutions. At last count, nearly 10,000 individuals were unhoused in Santa Clara County.

    Interest from hotel sellers has been high.

    “(We’ve) received additional inquiries from other hotel owners but at this time we are waiting to see if the state makes additional funding available,” said Consuelo Hernandez, division manager at the county’s Office of Supportive Housing, which is overseeing much of the project.

    It’s likely the Extended Stay location in Milpitas will win funding but the competition in the Bay Area has been tough. Whether the county’s application for the Santa Clara Inn is successful is uncertain, according to Hernandez.

    “We could still receive funding for Santa Clara Inn if one of the other regions does not fully allocate their share (of funding),” Hernandez said. About $600 million from the CARES Act has been split between eight regions throughout California.

    Both hotels already had been on the county’s radar to purchase and refurbish using Measure A Affordable Housing Bond funds to turn into interim or permanent housing.

    If approved, the Extended Stay in Milpitas could include case management offices, exterior improvements and amenities to the site, according to Hernandez. It would provide a minimum of 79 units for interim housing while the county applies for tax credits to convert the entire site to permanent, supportive housing.

    Lisa Moreno, a resident of Milpitas and co-founder of Hope for the Unhoused and Milpitas Parent Coalition, supports the project.

    “(Because) it’s not near the neighborhoods, I don’t think there’s a lot of opposition,” Moreno said. The property is near the Highway 680 interchange next to Hillview Executive Park.

    Moreno said she’s seen compassion from her friends, neighbors and others on Nextdoor. She said she has been fighting for additional services for the homeless for years, services that San Jose has but Milpitas does not.

    “You see the people in San Jose that will come if they know resources are there,” Moreno said. “They’re people and all they want to do is be acknowledged. So I want to ask the county: What can you do for us? What does (Milpitas) need to do to get some of these services?”

    The transitional housing on Hillview Court is a step, Moreno acknowledged, but it’s not going to solve the problem.

    “My long-term wish is that federal, local and state governments would work together to provide the necessary wraparound services for these individuals,” Moreno said. “This problem is not going to go away. It’s going to get worse.”

    Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] and follow her @MadelynGReese

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