On Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Supervisors are poised to take a monumental step forward in the drive to end homelessness in our region. They will decide whether to place an affordable housing bond of up to $950 million on the November ballot.
Few ballot measures can be of such profound benefit to so many sectors of our community.
Ending the homelessness crisis is a critical priority for the business community, as well as for voters. In order to sustain Silicon Valley’s role as the global epicenter of innovation and growth, we must foster a healthy community that is able to maintain a high quality of life and address its most pressing problems.
Our region has experienced unprecedented job growth, but our housing stock has not kept pace. Over the last five years, the Bay Area has produced 531,000 new jobs, but only 94,000 new housing units. This jobs-housing imbalance has contributed to skyrocketing housing costs and rental vacancy rates so low they are unprecedented, leaving the most economically vulnerable members of our community with no viable housing options.
As a result, Silicon Valley has one of the highest per capita rates of homelessness of anywhere in the country.
Responding to the needs of homeless men, women and families should be our shared moral imperative. Even hard working families can suddenly find themselves without income and without shelter. Many homeless men and women are veterans struggling with the consequences of their deployment overseas.
Children born into our deepest levels of poverty need the stability of a home to learn and thrive.
Our community is already spending substantial public resources on this problem. “Home Not Found”, a report commissioned by Destination: Home in partnership with Santa Clara County, found that the county spends $520 million each year providing public safety net and justice services to support the homeless population. Our public resources could be invested much more wisely.
In 2015, Santa Clara County launched its Pay for Success project that has tracked costs and health outcomes for individuals placed in supportive housing. The idea of supportive housing, or “Housing First,” is to end homelessness altogether instead of serving homeless individuals through expensive public investments in hospitals, jails, and social services. In its first year, the project has shown that these men and women use significantly fewer public resources once they are housed.
Over 6,000 people are without a home on any given night in Santa Clara County. This is a crisis that will not be resolved without active public intervention. By approving the affordable housing bond for the ballot, the Board of Supervisors will be boldly confronting this continuing challenge on our behalf.
Thousands of vulnerable men, women and families in our community can thrive and become economically independent if they have a home. This bond is not only good for them. It’s good for all of us.
Ben Spero is a Managing Director at Spectrum Equity and chairs the board of Destination: Home, a public private partnership with the mission of ending homelessness in Santa Clara County. Fred Keeley is a Board Member of Working Partnerships USA and former speaker pro tempore of the California Assembly. They wrote this for the Mercury News.