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Housing Assistance Difficult To Obtain In Santa Clara County

Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious
Homeless camps along the Guadalupe River and underneath Highway 87 immediately adjacent to San Jose International Airport in San Jose, California.

Getting housing from Santa Clara County may be more complicated than it appears. According to a report from San Jose Spotlight, you pretty much need to have your house condemned to get swift help.

Consuelo Hernandez, director of the Office of Supportive Housing for Santa Clara County, told San José Spotlight that her office is required to provide relocation assistance to tenants evicted by code enforcement officials due to unsafe or hazardous conditions.

“We work with them to figure out a relocation plan, and if in the event they have to red-tag and people have to move out immediately, we work with them to provide housing,” Hernandez said. In this case, San Jose agreed to reimburse the county for the cost of putting the tenants in a hotel, she said. Property owners are responsible for providing relocation payments.

But the situation is much more complex for unhoused individuals. They have to call the county's shelter hotline to get a housing voucher or shelter placement.

Activist Shaunn Cartwright says the chance of getting immediate help is slim. "Usually what happens, it takes a couple days and a couple phone calls. If you're in an emergency situation, you don't have time to go back and forth," Cartwright says. "When it doesn't happen, you can't figure out a rhyme or reason."

She's also concerned that people in temporary shelters often lack a clear path for where to go next.

Homeless activist Scott Largent said in his experience, motel vouchers are a dead-end street, even when the option expanded during the pandemic.

Hernandez says she believes 48 hours is the longest somebody has had to wait for a shelter bed.

But advocates argue that even a short period on the street is a matter of life and death.

Hernandez stresses that while there's limited resources available for people seeking shelter in Santa Clara County, residents in need of a place to stay or food can contact the hotline for help. Long-term solutions are being worked on, she added, but they take time.

Katherine Simpson is a teacher and journalist in the Bay Area. She's been working in public radio since 2018.