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A challenge to tech firms – match Cisco’s $50 million donation

Audrey Apodaca’s partner Tony (no last name given) naps in Apodaca’s tent at a homeless camp near a freeway offramp in San Jose, California, Wednesday, July 19, 2017. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)

Cisco’s $50 million donation last week to fight homelessness could be a game-changer for the way businesses see their role in helping solve the Bay Area’s housing crisis.

It’s believed to be the largest donation ever made by a local company in response to the issue. Bravo to Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins for his leadership. Cisco is a role model for good citizenship and for how tech firms can do more for the region that helps make them so successful.

We challenge the CEOs of Bay Area tech firms and other leading businesses to match — or beat — Cisco’s donation. Imagine the possibilities. Twenty gifts of $50 million would raise $1 billion.

That’s equal to the $1 billion Measure A bond Santa Clara County voters approved in 2016 to provide affordable housing for the homeless and low-income families. It’s nearly double the similar $580 million Measure A1 bond that Alameda County voters approved that same year.

A solid public-private partnership could help solve the Bay Area’s homeless problem and significantly ease the growing divide between the wealthy and those who are struggling in the region.

Despite the region’s economic success, the 2017 homeless count shows Santa Clara County (7,394), Contra Costa County (1,607), Alameda County (5,629) and San Mateo County (1,253) still have major homeless issues.

And it’s not just the homeless that are struggling for housing, Even tech workers are struggling to afford housing in and around where they work. Low-income workers are often spending more than half of their earnings on housing.

Addressing the Bay Area’s housing crisis is not just good policy, it’s good business. Workers who keep the region’s economy humming need affordable places to live with reasonable commutes to their jobs.

Cisco’s donation isn’t the first time a tech firm has made a donation to fight homelessness. It’s the size of the gift and the local impact that’s unprecedented.

Robbins said Friday that he was motivated by feeling a responsibility to act and that “evidence has shown us that supportive housing works.”

It wasn’t a coincidence that he announced Cisco’s donation during the 10th anniversary celebration of Destination: Home, the public-private partnership established to work on strategies to end homelessness in Santa Clara County.

Since 2015, the partnership has helped place 5,154 people in housing, 94 percent of whom stayed housed. It’s a remarkable achievement. Check out the video on Robbins’ blog. Those interviewed offer heart-warming proof of the difference this kind of effort makes in homeless people’s lives.

Bay Area businesses have a long history of offering innovative solutions to problems around the world. We join with Robbins in urging them to take a more active role in fighting homelessness and helping solve the housing shortage plaguing the communities and neighborhoods in and around where they do business.