News

Simitian aims to put county services within reach

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian has a plan to make social services more accessible to North County residents.

This week Simitian proposed creating "satellite offices" for county social services staff at local nonprofits that serve struggling residents -- such as Mountain View's Community Services Agency, which provides food and financial assistance to those in need --complementing the county's own services for the poor.

Simitian has proposed up to six such "satellite offices" in the county's fifth district, which includes Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Cupertino, Saratoga and parts of Sunnyvale and San Jose. County staff would be on site a day or two every week in those locations.

Simitian blames a lack of easy access as the reason that certain social services are under-used.

"California has the nation's lowest participation rate for federally-funded SNAP benefits (formerly "food stamps," known here as CalFresh)," Simitian wrote in an op-ed piece for the Voice this week. "Only half of those eligible for the program are signed up. The hurdle of transportation is one reason why."

"At our offices, we're already seeing clients that receive or qualify for county-administered benefits like CalFresh or CalWorks," said Mila Zelkha of InnVision Shelter Network. "It just makes good sense to put as many services as possible in one place."

Simitian said his proposal would require no vote of approval by the county's board of supervisors.

"If the (county) administration is supportive -- and they are -- this is something that can be done administratively," Simitian said, adding that he is hoping to implement it by September or October.

The county got some experience with such an arrangement at the start of the year, Simitian said, when county social workers needed a place to work while the county's North County social services building was being moved from 100 Moffett Boulevard in Mountain View to 1330 West Middlefield Road in Mountain View.

"In many respects this grew out of when social services staff were camping out at the community services agency in Mountain View they were gracious hosts, as was the Mountain View-Los Altos School District's adult education office." He said county officials realized that there are real benefits of having county staff and nonprofit staff in the same place. "There's a much better chance you'll put together a comprehensive package of services that fits a particular case."

Simitian said the satellite offices would be particularly helpful to residents farther away from the North County social services office in Mountain View. The only other place to access such services is in San Jose.

"If you are a person of modest means from Cupertino or Sunnyvale, getting to that office is going to require two to three bus trips and a few hours," Simitian said.

"We have clients who are juggling work, childcare and limited transportation access," said Naomi Nakano-Matsumoto of West Valley Community Services in Cupertino. "Right now, we have to tell them to go to another office in another city to access county programs. A one-stop shopping approach would help them tremendously."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 30, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Since transportation is the key to success suggest El Camino Blvd. location. Great Idea. Make sure it is on an established bus route.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by BV333
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 30, 2014 at 3:43 pm

I work at a place that used to offer CalFresh application assistance and we found it wasn't only that people couldn't access the services, but one of the main reasons people were reluctant was out of immigration fears. They didn't want to use a benefit that they might have to pay back later or that might indicate at an immigration hearing that they were unable to support themselves without help. No matter how much education we did, many would not participate.

Other services, like court services (restraining orders, etc) and SSI applications were often deemed to far/hard to get to. People like to go where they are comfortable and familiar, where it feels safe (like CSA) and the health clinics.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2014 at 7:30 pm

> No matter how much education we did, many would not participate. i

So you are saying that people whom you would tend to identify as "illegal aliens" should be provided more anonymnity by the County so that they can illegaly subscribe to services to which they have no right?

Seems that the County needs to rethink it's role. If it is not going to follow the law--then why should anyone follow the law?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 1, 2014 at 8:32 am

Joe makes a good point. This article does not provide enough information as to where the funding is coming from to support the staff for this operation - or rent at the location where it will take place - what apportionment of federal funding. The fact that it is a non-profit has no bearing on the fact that someone has to be paid to do the job(s). How about who qualifies for this benefit? Stranger still is that this requires no vote by the county supervisors - how about a vote from the PA CC if occupying city property?
Having relatives who work for the State Compensation Insurance Fund (Workman's Compensation) There are a lot of computer programs required to status who is entitled to benefits - how much they are receiving and when - what the caps are for benefits - and timelines for when paid out.
There has to be a sophisticated system in place when you are talking government provided services.
Assuming there is a limited amount of funding available there has to be a working plan as to how the funding will be managed. And since it is a government program supported by the taxpayers then there has to be a plan on record as how managed.
So you start with a "feel good" idea but that has to translate into good management with proper accountability as to who is getting what. That all ties into yearly tax reporting by social security for the individuals receiving the benefits as well as the city providing the location for the services.


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