Race & Homelessness in Santa Clara County

In 2019, we launched a new effort to examine how issues of race and homelessness intersect in our community. National research has shown that people of color are dramatically more likely than their white counterparts to become homeless in America, and that the legacy of historical and contemporary structural racism is at the root of who becomes homeless. 

So, we partnered with SPARC to examine the link between racial inequity and homelessness in Santa Clara County, which culminated in a January 2020 report titled: Race & Homelessness in Santa Clara County. By acknowledging the negative consequences of some of our policies, choices, and attitudes, and by embracing the core values and strategies outlined in this report, we can begin to undo the negative and detrimental impacts of decades of systemic racism for our most vulnerable neighbors.

Download a PDF of the entire report or 2-page summary.

Key Findings from this Report

Theme 1: Disproportionately high rates of homelessness among specific racial/ethnic groups

Overall, Santa Clara County is generally similar to other communities across the U.S., with high rates of homelessness among people of color. These disparities are particularly prevalent among Black / African American, American Indian / Alaska Native, and Hispanic/Latinx populations:

In contrast, non-Hispanic people and those who identify as Asian/Asian American are both significantly underrepresented in the homeless population.

Theme 2: Racial/ethnic variation in experiences of homelessness

Our analysis found racial and ethnic disparities for some (but not all) HMIS data sets related to a person’s homelessness experiences. For example:

Theme 3: Structural barriers, including lack of affordable housing and economic opportunity

Stakeholders across the community cited systemic and structural inequities as a significant driver of housing insecurity and poverty in people of color.


Based on this initial assessment, the report also made a number of recommendations for how Destination: Home and the broader Supportive Housing System can begin to address racial disparities related to homelessness:

Strategies to Address Racial Equity

  • Center and raise the voice of people of color who have experienced homelessness in the policy and program decisions of the supportive housing system.
  • Partner with the safety net system to better understand and address the systemic causes of poverty and inequity.
  • Adopt new housing and land use policies that help reverse longstanding housing disparities that have negatively impacted people of color.

Values to Guide our Work

  • Integrate people of color with lived experience of homelessness in all program, policy, and funding decisions.
  • Align racial equity work in the homelessness sector with other racial equity initiatives in Santa Clara County.
  • Use a racial equity lens and data-driven decision making in the homelessness system and across other systems.


This report was authored by the SPARC Team: Jeff Olivet, Regina Cannon, Caty Wilkey, and Nastacia’ Moore and made possible through the financial support and thought leadership of Cisco, as part of its larger efforts to address homelessness in Santa Clara County.

We’d also like to extend our deepest thanks to our local Racial Equity Advisor Board who wisely guided this process on our community’s behalf:

  • Pastor Paul Bains, Project WeHOPE / Dignity on Wheels
  • Poncho Guevara, Sacred Heart Community Services
  • Consuelo Hernandez, County of Santa Clara, Office of Supportive Housing
  • Jennifer Kelleher, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
  • Anthony King, Lived Experience Advisory Board
  • Dontae Lartigue, Lived Experience Advisory Board
  • Camille Llanes-Fontanilla, SOMOS Mayfair
  • Jennifer Loving, Destination: Home
  • Miguel Márquez, County of Santa Clara, Office of the County Executive
  • Jacky Morales-Ferrand, City of San Jose, Department of Housing
  • Kelly Petrich, Cisco
  • Nicole Taylor, Silicon Valley Community Foundation

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