Changing Our Systems to Prevent Homelessness  

More people than ever are at risk of homelessness nationwide. A record-breaking 22.5 million renter households are rent-burdened and just one unexpected expense or life event away from losing their housing. We will not succeed in ending our homelessness crisis without preventing more people from being pushed into homelessness in the first place.

When we launched the Santa Clara County Homelessness Prevention System in 2017, it was with the belief that putting flexible money in people’s hands could serve as a critical intervention for preventing homelessness. 

Over the last seven years, our system has proved this to be true, supporting nearly 25,000 households at imminent risk of homelessness through the Homelessness Prevention System and related COVID-19 relief efforts– only possible thanks to a network of community-based partners led by Sacred Heart Community Service providing financial assistance, legal support and services to help families maintain their housing. 

Rapid financial assistance is at the center of our model. Our system’s collective cash aid programs have distributed a total of $117 million in direct financial assistance since 2017. At an average of just over $7,000 provided to each household, it’s a pragmatic way to keep people housed, with just 7% of families becoming homeless two years after receiving Homelessness Prevention System services. 

As Destination: Home’s Chief Program Officer, Chad Bojorquez recently told Bloomberg, “We built a new safety net that didn’t exist before.” The outlet featured our community’s program as a cost-effective model of prevention to replicate.

I hope that people will look at what Santa Clara County and Destination Home are doing and look at it as an example of something that others can emulate. It tells us something about root causes. It tells us there’s a group of people who can’t afford their rent and some temporary financial help can solve the situation.

Notre Dame’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities researcher David Phillips in “In Pricey Silicon Valley, a Plan to Preempt Homelessness

The goal from the beginning was to build a model that could be adopted by the broader public safety net. This July, our model will be adopted by the County of Santa Clara as our community’s leading prevention strategy. 

The transition is a natural progression reinforced by the results of the six-year randomized control trial – in which researchers found program participants were 81 percent less likely to become homeless within six months of enrollment – as well as the pilot’s overarching success to date. The move also allows the prevention system to become fully integrated with the rest of the countywide Supportive Housing System.

For a closer look at the impact of our prevention efforts and the plans for the future, check out last week’s briefing.

We must do more to help people stay housed

The need for direct cash aid has never been greater, with tens of thousands of local households severely rent burdened and the rate of people pushed into homelessness trending up across America. This crisis will continue as long as our national wage/housing imbalance does

For the first time, the need to fund prevention programs is included in the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness. We are also encouraged to see our community take the learnings from this direct cash aid model and expand into other efforts such as Guaranteed Income. Study after study shows households are able to obtain and/or maintain stable housing with steady cash assistance of as little as $500 a month. This is why our community is already piloting several guaranteed income programs, including one specifically targeting families experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.

This work has the power to reshape systems, dismantle inequities, and reduce the chronic financial disparities far too many families in America are forced to experience. Direct financial assistance is about justice, equity, and a shared commitment to building a more equitable future. 

With evictions soaring across the nation and a growing number of people experiencing severe rent burdens, we must work together with urgency to keep families from losing their homes.

Understand the Root Causes of Homelessness

As our community continues to expand the Homelessness Prevention System, we must also scale other housing-centric and evidence-based solutions to address the systemic root causes of homelessness. Join us for a workshop and panel discussion examining the fundamental connection between housing and our homelessness crisis, drawing from the latest data sources and case studies. Hosted at a beautiful new affordable housing development, attendees will have the opportunity to tour the facility and witness its impact firsthand. Join us to engage in dynamic conversations and collaborative efforts to address homelessness through housing solutions. 

When: Wednesday, May 29 at noon 

Where: 1030 N 4th Street, San Jose, CA 95112

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