Our Homelessness Crisis
Today, homelessness represents a full-blown crisis in Santa Clara County. While our region is known as a global hub of technology and economic prosperity, several thousands of our residents are living on the streets, with tens-of-thousands more on the brink of homelessness every day.
While it’s next to impossible to know the exact number of homeless individuals in our community, one standard (yet imprecise) method of measuring homelessness in the U.S. is the biannual Point-in-Time (PIT) Count. According to the 2019 PIT Count, there were 9,706 people experiencing homelessness in Santa Clara County – the 4th highest total of any community in the country.
Compared to other communities across the country, Santa Clara County also has extremely high rates of homeless individuals who are unsheltered. In fact, 82% of our homeless neighbors are living outdoors, on the street, in vehicles or other locations not meant for habitation.
The problem continues to grow because more people are slipping into homelessness than ever before – the result of growing income inequality, gentrification and displacement, rising housing costs, an extreme housing shortage, and a lack of sufficient safety net services to adequately care for the most vulnerable in our community.
For every two homeless individuals we connect to housing, three more are experiencing homelessness for the very first time.
This crisis has community-wide impact. The greatest cost, of course, is the human toll exacted on those forced to live on the streets. People with a history of homelessness are much more likely to suffer from serious health problems–nearly half of homeless individuals report having a disabling condition. They also have a significantly shorter life expectancy, and tragically, we see more than 100 people die every year while experiencing homelessness in Santa Clara County.
Our inability to solve our homelessness crisis carries an extremely high financial cost as well. A 2015 study, Home Not Found: The Cost of Homelessness in Silicon Valley, found that our community spent more than $520 million/year in public safety, health care, criminal justice and other public services attributed to homelessness – while also noting the most persistently homeless individuals could be housed at a much lower cost.
Who’s Homeless in Santa Clara County
Contrary to common beliefs, our homeless neighbors are quite diverse: ranging from families with young children to working adults simply unable to make rent. For the growing number of our neighbors who are just barely scraping by, homelessness is often just one crisis away – whether it be an unexpected medical bill, car repair, or temporary break in employment.
So, it should come as no surprise that our homeless population looks a lot like our broader community and includes people of all ages, demographics and backgrounds:
While homelessness can truly strike any one of us, we see troubling disparities in who is being pushed into homelessness.
Like many other communities, homelessness in Santa Clara County is characterized by serious racial disparities. A 2019 report commissioned by Destination: Home, Race & Homelessness in Santa Clara County, found that people of color are disproportionately impacted by homelessness in our community:
In addition, we know that certain experiences correlate with a higher risk of homelessness. Among homeless individuals who responded to the 2019 Homeless Census & Survey:
reported experiencing domestic violence or partner abuse
reported previous involvement with the criminal justice system
reported a history in the foster care system
Fiction vs Fact
A common misperception is that homelessness in Santa Clara County is driven by migration of people experiencing homelessness in other parts of the country.
- 81% of homeless individuals lived in Santa Clara County when they become homeless
- 57% of homeless individuals are long-term residents who had lived in Santa Clara County for more than 10 years before becoming homeless
At the end of the day, It’s important to remember that we’re talking about real people. Every homeless individual is somebody’s neighbor, friend, sister, father or grandmother – and it’s why we must remain focused on bringing an end to homelessness in our community.