Sunnyvale is spending the next six months determining if its existing homeless support services are sufficient for its unhoused residents.
Homeless service provider HomeFirst agreed to a six-month extension of its existing pilot program with the city, contingent on city officials receiving detailed data about sheltered bed usage for its homeless residents. The program’s contract was slated to end on Oct. 1 before the extension, and councilmembers were concerned about leaving unhoused people without services, especially during winter.
Existing services include an outreach team and five reserved beds at a shelter in San Jose. The extension will cost the city $202,430 and last through next March.
Councilmembers declined to renew the contract for another year, citing the need for more metrics on the nonprofit’s services. City employees reported only 10 people have used the shelter beds since the program launched in June 2022. Councilmembers want more information, such as how many nights the beds are used.
Councilmember Alysa Cisneros said this information is crucial for how the city moves forward with the shelter beds.
“Council really wants to make sure that what we’re doing to help our most vulnerable residents is working,” Cisneros told San José Spotlight. “If things could be working better, we want to know what kind of adjustments need to be made in order to best serve the people who need these resources.”
Sunnyvale has about 385 unhoused residents according to the 2022 point-in-time count, though county officials said the tally is often an undercount. Santa Clara County has grappled with homelessness for the past decade, as the region’s population continues to grow. As of last year, the county’s homeless population has grown 3% since 2019, totaling 10,028 people.
HomeFirst spokesperson Lori Smith said whether the nonprofit contract continues as written is up to Sunnyvale to decide.
“We want to be good partners, we want to make sure there are some services being provided to the people of Sunnyvale,” Smith told San José Spotlight. “But it’s completely the city’s prerogative to construct or offer the contract in the way that suits the people of the city.”
Smith added that HomeFirst has historically provided the city with requested statistics and has been abided the contract’s data reporting requirements. She said the contract’s data reporting parameters have not been changed in the extension. Sunnyvale spokesperson Jennifer Garnett confirmed only the contract’s term limit and dollar amount changed.
As per the contract, HomeFirst provides the city with bi-weekly reports on services provided, though the city can request additional information. Garnett said city employees are working on a request for additional data. Cisneros said she is encouraged that the city and HomeFirst are working to deliver the information.