Full Sunnyvale city council seated behind the chamber dais during a meeting, with city staffers seated below.
The Sunnyvale City Council is extending its contract with HomeFirst for homeless support services by another six months, but plans to go out to bid for a new provider. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

Sunnyvale is going back to the market for homeless service providers as officials press the existing partner for results.

The Sunnyvale City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a six-month contract extension to nonprofit homeless provider HomeFirst, totaling $206,710. During that time, the city plans to open submissions for other providers and have a partner picked by the time this contract ends in September.

City spokesperson Jennifer Garnett said Sunnyvale plans to start accepting proposals within the next month, but the deadline hasn’t been finalized. Councilmembers asked that homeless residents be included in the request’s formation, which Garnett said the city is still working on.

Sunnyvale is asking for a litany of services, including a street-based outreach team and 24-hour rapid response on weekdays, case management and access to at least three shelter beds for people being supported. Beyond the core services are a series of “optional” services, including a mobile shower.

“I’m hoping whoever’s applying understands that these optional services, it’s kind of a checklist, it’s kind of a laundry list,” Mayor Larry Klein said. “There’s a success criteria from those optional items that really make the difference.”

Last September, councilmembers declined to renew HomeFirst’s contract for another year, only approving a six-month extension and asking the nonprofit to provide more metrics about service effectiveness. This time, councilmembers said they didn’t want a gap in services provided to unhoused residents while going out to bid for other options — but grilled the nonprofit’s leaders over how they would collect feedback from homeless people who used their services.

For the next six months, city officials want to see even more data on how these support services get used, from how many people the team helped find shelter to how many complete the county’s vulnerability survey.

“It has always shocked me that there has been so little specific activity and outcome data in these government contracts, which are pretty large,” Councilmember Alysa Cisneros told San José Spotlight. “I feel this is an essential part of accountability that we should ask for from any organization that’s receiving taxpayer money.”

The extended contract suggests goals for the outreach team to achieve over the next six months, including a 50% support rate for helping homeless people gather personal documents, such as birth certificates or identification cards.

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.

The bidding process will be open to all applicable support service providers, and councilmembers underscored its competitiveness. HomeFirst could potentially apply again, which Chief Programs Officer Kelly Vazquez said the nonprofit may do after seeing the request.

“Should this opportunity meet the threshold to pursue, we will apply and look forward to continued innovation in the city of Sunnyvale,” Vazquez told San José Spotlight.

Sunnyvale isn’t the only city considering parting ways with HomeFirst, which has faced allegations of racism and mistreating workers in the past months. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors gave HomeFirst a three-month extension in December and has spent that time looking for other providers. The San Jose City Council awarded HomeFirst a $6.2 million contract to operate four interim housing sites last October, though councilmembers voiced frustrations about the allegations against the organization.

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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