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San Jose approves $2M for coronavirus homeless prevention fund

Following a statewide directive to shelter-in-place, San Jose leaders on Tuesday unanimously approved allocating $2 million to fund homelessness prevention services for low-income families at risk of being pushed into poverty.

Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday also approved an additional $2 million to the same $11 million fund meant to provide rent assistance to tenants at risk of eviction because of a loss of income from the coronavirus, matching the city’s contribution.

The fund, which is part of the Santa Clara County Homelessness Prevention System, is being led by Sacred Heart Community Service. The donations came from foundational grants and tech companies including including Cisco, Western Digital, Adobe, Zoom Video Communications Inc., and Facebook.

“I want to express gratitude to a lot of public and private sector leaders who’ve been working together to grow this fund and we’re still at it,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said at Tuesday’s meeting. “I think we had a good start as we announced yesterday with nearly $12 million committed and appreciate everyone’s hard work on it.”

With schools and businesses shut down due to the novel coronavirus, millions of Californians living paycheck-to-paycheck across the state have been directed to stay home, losing income while bills and payments rack up.

“We know the results of these impacts are particularly impacting low income households,” said Ragan Henninger, the city’s director of policy and budget.

Santa Clara County has nearly 10,000 homeless people, with 6,172 of them in San Jose. The city, in partnership with Destination: Home, has prevented more than 1,300 households from falling into homelessness through its prevention program. The program has kept 95 percent of families housed and provides 64 percent of families financial aid within a 72-hour window.

“The primary track is financial assistance with a focus on replacing lost income and keeping people housed and there’s a secondary track that will include… any needed additional support such as case management or legal support,” Henninger said. “The guiding philosophy of this emergency response program remains the same and that is to quickly respond to need, provide easy access via online phone and multiple locations, and provide as much flexibility as possible to meet the unique needs of each household.”

The program is available across Santa Clara County at more than 14 locations, but 70 percent of the families served live in San Jose, Renninger added. “We contribute a minimal amount of dollars but we see a huge impact and a huge benefit and a leverage to our money,” she said.

The average amount of financial assistance a family receives is $4,100. As of Tuesday, city officials reported the program has received 1,600 applications.

“It’s a really great example of everyone coming together knowing that we have a lot of already vulnerable people in our community,” Councilmember Maya Esparza said.

To qualify, an individual will need to provide a documented loss of income due to the virus outbreak. Once accepted, eligible individuals can request financial assistance once a month during the public health emergency.