Santa Clara County will open three homeless shelters Monday evening that will provide 365 emergency beds each night through the end of March.
That could help the several dozen unsheltered and sheltered homeless counted in Mountain View during 2011 Santa Clara County Point-in-Time homeless count undertaken by the county on two nights last January. A total of 26 people had been tallied as homeless in Mountain View, a 60.6 percent decrease from 2009.
The closes shelter to Mountain View, Sunnyvale's National Guard Armory at 620 East Maude Ave., has 125 beds available on a first-come, first-serve basis. It opens at 6 p.m. every night and closes at 6 a.m. and accomodate adult men and women.
If more people come "we do what we can to accomodate them," said Jennifer Van Every, a spokesperson with EHC LifeBuilders. "We also have a network of service providers that we can refer them to."
The nonprofit EHC LifeBuilders operators served 2,693 people last year, 90 percent of whom stayed at the San Jose Boccardo Reception Center and Sunnyvale sites. The third shelter is National Guard Armory at Gilroy.
This year officials want to step up their efforts to help the long term
chronically homeless, who make up 36 percent of the homeless population on
any given night.
"Any individual can fall on hard times, but when we see the same people year after year in temporary cold weather shelters, it means that something is not working," said Ky Le, the director of Santa Clara county's homeless systems.
Several things need to happen simultaneously to tackle homelessness at its core, according to Van Every, which include building more affordable housing and developing more intergrated services that address underlying causes of homelessness like job training, mental health and drug abuse.
Van Every explained that "the key is not to move people out of emergency shelters, which is a temporary fix."
"Our goal as an agency is ending homelessness as a whole," she said.
EHC and county officials plan to work on a registry of homeless individuals, that will prioritize homeless individuals based on their health and time on the street, and move the most urgent cases into permanent housing with support services. This falls under the county's Destination: Home/Housing 1000 initiative, a public/private effort that aims to house 1,000 chronically homeless individuals over the next two years.
The 2011 homeless survey found 7,067 homeless people in Santa Clara County. Only 1,000 shelter beds will be available countywide during the winter.
Additional reporting by Bay City News.