An East Palo Alto shelter will open its doors to Palo Alto and other northern Santa Clara County homeless people with help from a $76,650 grant, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has announced.
The funding, provided by voter-approved sales tax Measure A, will allow East Palo Alto's Project WeHOPE shelter to dedicate five beds to northern Santa Clara County residents. The supervisors approved the funding on April 15.
The cross-county funding is an attempt to mitigate some of the loss of shelter services in northern Santa Clara County after InnVision's Clara-Mateo Alliance 70-bed shelter, then located on the grounds of the Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in Menlo Park, closed on April 30, 2011. The shelter building was seismically unstable; the VA planned to add sports fields and recreational facilities on the site for its veterans.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian has urged the board to fund a north county shelter.
"The point is that these folks are homeless. And the only large scale homeless shelter we have in northern Santa Clara County just closed its doors for good.
"We need a Plan B, and we need it fast. Project WeHOPE is only a stone's throw away from the county line, and they want to be part of the solution. Clearly, this is a win-win," he said.
The funding will ensure the five beds at Project WeHOPE are dedicated 365 days a year to residents whose last known address was in Santa Clara County. The funds will also pay for case management services to help the homeless transition back into the mainstream community, the board said in a statement.
Project WeHOPE is a nonprofit organization located in neighboring San Mateo County, run by East Palo Alto native and pastor Paul Bains. The shelter has been open since 2009 and provides food, overnight shelter, financial literacy classes and case management services that range from medical and dental care to job placement and assistance with housing or transportation.
Bains approached Simitian about the cross-county shelter in fall 2013. Simitian and Bains had both supported working across county lines to fund the Clara-Mateo shelter. Simitian encouraged Bains to apply for funding through Measure A, which is devoted to specific funding priorities, including services for the homeless.
"Measure A funding seemed like a long shot at the time, but we made the cut," Bains said in a statement. "I'm so pleased to have this opportunity to serve folks from Santa Clara County. I'm grateful to Supervisor Simitian for realizing that a regional problem needs regional solutions, and grateful to the county for its support."
Simitian said the shelter marks a welcome shift in a policy that largely focused on South County needs.
"San Jose is the geographic, political and population center of Santa Clara County. I understand that. But I represent the North County. Representing a part of the county that is slightly removed from that center can be a challenge, particularly when it comes to ensuring folks have access to the services they need. The work we'll be doing with Project WeHOPE will help to ensure the homeless of northern Santa Clara County can get the services they need locally," Simitian said.
Project WeHOPE's application was one of 17 approved from a list of 98 applicants for Measure A funding.