We are reflecting on a full year fighting against the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, feeling deep gratitude for the many partners who have made this work possible and fought beside us to reach those most hurt by the pandemic’s rippling impacts.
Our approach to providing relief has evolved over the last 12 months, as we’ve listened to our community and learned lessons along the way. We’re now building on this experience to inform a next round of assistance, so let’s reflect on how we got here:
A year ago, our Homelessness Prevention System was equipped to serve 1,500 households, but it soon became clear that would not be enough.
We quickly mobilized with early support from Santa Clara County, the City of San José, Cisco and others, and expanded our system to provide direct cash assistance starting March 23rd, within the first week our community began sheltering-in-place.
While we launched the effort with $11 million, the program was oversubscribed in just a matter of days. It was clear – the need was desperate and being felt most by extremely low income households and people of color.
Continuing to fundraise, we turned to the community to refine our approach.
We asked Zulma Maciel with the City of San José Office of Racial Equity to help convene our equity community. They let us know families were losing everything, needed money quickly, and wanted to work with people and organizations they already knew and trusted.
So we committed to prioritizing extremely low income households and those who were not receiving stimulus nor unemployment payments and facilitated getting cash assistance into their hands as quickly as possible by partnering with 70 community based organizations already working in the community, trusting them to distribute funds.
As additional resources became available in the fall, we adjusted once again – pivoting to include rent payment assistance and align with state eviction protections which had just been enacted.
As of February, $36 million has been deployed to 15,000 households.
A commitment to equity resulted in these funds going to where they were needed most: Extremely low income households of color who are living in the highest COVID-impacted zip codes in the valley.
The fact that our movement has been able to mitigate the devastation of the pandemic for 15,000 households is a tremendous feat and we are so grateful for our dozens of public, private and philanthropic partners.
The truth is, however, we still have much work to do.
The Next Round of Rent Relief
The federal COVID-19 relief bill approved in December included $25 billion for rental assistance – with the funding split between states and local jurisdictions.
The State of California rolled out its plans for a new statewide rental assistance program in late January, and we have been working with the County of Santa Clara & City of San Jose to develop a strategy for deploying our local share of federal funding, building on our community-driven approach and the lessons learned this year.
As a result, federal rent assistance dollars will be deployed in Santa Clara County via two complementary programs:
- The Santa Clara County Homelessness Prevention System: Destination: Home, Sacred Heart Community Service and our network of partners will deploy the County’s and City’s direct allocation of funding through the existing Homelessness Prevention System. This locally-administered program will focus on ensuring that our most vulnerable residents can access this next round of rental assistance.
- The State of California’s Emergency Rental Assistance program: In addition, the Statewide rental assistance program will have funding specifically earmarked for our community, and will cater towards assisting landlords and other low-income residents needing rent assistance.
At Destination: Home, we are working with our partners to launch the next round of assistance as soon as possible. Please stay tuned for more details on our local effort in the weeks ahead.
The Power of Private Funding
Private funding is critically-needed to ensure we have enough flexible resources available to help families address other basic needs during this crisis.
With support for necessities like food, medicine, and transportation not covered by the new stimulus package – and many of the most in need renters living in non-traditional housing situations – families are falling behind and desperately need more help to meet the specific and unique challenges they are facing.