News

Santa Clara County supervisors propose $25M grant for homeless housing expansion

County would likely utilize funds received through American Rescue Plan Act

LifeMoves Mountain View provides interim homeless housing in inexpensive modular units. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Two Santa Clara County supervisors are looking to pour $25 million into creating an ambitious network of homeless housing complexes across the county, with hopes of constructing up to 10 projects that could get people off the street and drastically reduce the region's growing homelessness population.

Supervisors Joe Simitian and Otto Lee announced the proposal Thursday at LifeMoves Mountain View, an interim housing facility that they hope to replicate 10 times over. The project was built in a matter of months and at a fraction of the cost of a homeless shelter.

Lee called it one of the quickest and best tools in the fight against homelessness, using modular construction — including repurposed shipping containers — in order to stand up 100 interim housing units in a matter of months. Unlike homeless shelters, it provides an extra layer of privacy in giving residents their own personal unit, which is a game-changer for many of the temporary residents.

"It has a door that locks, they have windows, and they provide privacy and safety that so many of our unhoused lack while sleeping in tents, living in the streets, under overpasses or by the creeks," Lee said.

LifeMoves Mountain View opened in May this year to considerable fanfare, with Gov. Gavin Newsom praising it as a template for others cities and counties seeking creative ways to house the homeless, even if just temporarily. Santa Clara County has seen its homeless count jump from 7,394 in 2017 to 9,706 in 2019, the large majority of whom are considered unsheltered.

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Though traditionally, permanent supportive housing is still seen as the best option, it takes years of work to get a project approved and far more to get it constructed, and all at a much higher cost. LifeMoves Mountain View, by contrast, took advantage of streamlined approval and Lego-style modular buildings that could be fabricated, shipped in and installed in short order. The total cost of the project landed around $25 million.

Even as the doors were opening at the 100-unit facility in May, LifeMoves' leadership was already making big plans for expansion. Aubrey Merriman, the nonprofit's CEO, said his intent from the start was to use the modular housing complex as an example for other cities to follow. The blueprints for duplicating the project spell out what it would take for other Bay Area municipalities to step up.

LifeMoves CEO Aubrey Merriman speaks at an event celebrating the opening of LifeMoves Mountain View, an interim housing complex for the unhoused, on May 25, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Merriman said it will take a total of $250 million to make it happen, likely relying on serious contributions from private donors and Silicon Valley's corporate powerhouses. It will also take political willpower, and would require local politicians to volunteer to make homeless housing a priority in their own community.

Thursday marked the first potential commitment to the funding challenge, with Simitian and Lee proposing that $25 million in county funds be put toward the effort — likely using federal stimulus money under the American Rescue Plan Act. Simitian said that past solutions to the homelessness crisis have been inadequate and feel akin to running in place, and that a $25 million start to funding a network of housing sites could hopefully spur more action.

"That's really what I see this effort as being. I hope that it will be a catalyst to incentivize others to step up," Simitian said.

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Members of the Palo Alto, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale city councils were all present at the Thursday announcement at LifeMoves. Sunnyvale council member Alysa Cisneros said that it's going to take courage to take on the "monolithic challenge" of the housing crisis, and that interim housing is needed as a backstop for those who are just one month's rent away from being homeless.

"These individuals need a safety net for when the worst happens, and this is one of those safety nets," she said.

As of last month, LifeMoves Mountain View has been packed at near-full capacity with people who were homeless, all of whom have some connection to Mountain View. More than 60% of those staying in the housing complex previously lived in vehicles on the city's streets, which has become a controversial issue in recent years.

Among those people is Diane Jones, who has been at LifeMoves Mountain View for more than three months after previously living in a van. She said she fell into homelessness years ago and that she and her adult son have struggled to find a stable place to live since then. Homeless shelters were unpleasant and felt unsafe, she said, and it's been nice to finally have a place all to herself.

Jones said the case workers at LifeMoves were able to help her get a job and finally have an income to qualify for housing, and that she has since landed a spot in the Luna Vista apartments in Mountain View. She already signed the paperwork and expects to move out of LifeMoves in less than a month, opening up a spot for someone new to take her place.

Palo Alto is also now exploring a partnership with LifeMoves on a new interim housing development, which would be built at 1237 San Antonio Road, a former site of a water treatment plant that is located near the Baylands. In August, the City Council directed staff to apply for state funding through the Project Homekey program to help pay for the new facility, which is inspired by the Mountain View development and which provide shelters for between 88 and 132 rooms. The council is set to discuss the next steps in the application process this Monday, Sept. 27.

The full Board of Supervisors will vote on the $25 million funding proposal at the Sept. 28 board meeting.

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Palo Alto Weekly reporter Gennady Sheyner contributed to this report. Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

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Santa Clara County supervisors propose $25M grant for homeless housing expansion

County would likely utilize funds received through American Rescue Plan Act

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, Sep 23, 2021, 4:37 pm

Two Santa Clara County supervisors are looking to pour $25 million into creating an ambitious network of homeless housing complexes across the county, with hopes of constructing up to 10 projects that could get people off the street and drastically reduce the region's growing homelessness population.

Supervisors Joe Simitian and Otto Lee announced the proposal Thursday at LifeMoves Mountain View, an interim housing facility that they hope to replicate 10 times over. The project was built in a matter of months and at a fraction of the cost of a homeless shelter.

Lee called it one of the quickest and best tools in the fight against homelessness, using modular construction — including repurposed shipping containers — in order to stand up 100 interim housing units in a matter of months. Unlike homeless shelters, it provides an extra layer of privacy in giving residents their own personal unit, which is a game-changer for many of the temporary residents.

"It has a door that locks, they have windows, and they provide privacy and safety that so many of our unhoused lack while sleeping in tents, living in the streets, under overpasses or by the creeks," Lee said.

LifeMoves Mountain View opened in May this year to considerable fanfare, with Gov. Gavin Newsom praising it as a template for others cities and counties seeking creative ways to house the homeless, even if just temporarily. Santa Clara County has seen its homeless count jump from 7,394 in 2017 to 9,706 in 2019, the large majority of whom are considered unsheltered.

Though traditionally, permanent supportive housing is still seen as the best option, it takes years of work to get a project approved and far more to get it constructed, and all at a much higher cost. LifeMoves Mountain View, by contrast, took advantage of streamlined approval and Lego-style modular buildings that could be fabricated, shipped in and installed in short order. The total cost of the project landed around $25 million.

Even as the doors were opening at the 100-unit facility in May, LifeMoves' leadership was already making big plans for expansion. Aubrey Merriman, the nonprofit's CEO, said his intent from the start was to use the modular housing complex as an example for other cities to follow. The blueprints for duplicating the project spell out what it would take for other Bay Area municipalities to step up.

Merriman said it will take a total of $250 million to make it happen, likely relying on serious contributions from private donors and Silicon Valley's corporate powerhouses. It will also take political willpower, and would require local politicians to volunteer to make homeless housing a priority in their own community.

Thursday marked the first potential commitment to the funding challenge, with Simitian and Lee proposing that $25 million in county funds be put toward the effort — likely using federal stimulus money under the American Rescue Plan Act. Simitian said that past solutions to the homelessness crisis have been inadequate and feel akin to running in place, and that a $25 million start to funding a network of housing sites could hopefully spur more action.

"That's really what I see this effort as being. I hope that it will be a catalyst to incentivize others to step up," Simitian said.

Members of the Palo Alto, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale city councils were all present at the Thursday announcement at LifeMoves. Sunnyvale council member Alysa Cisneros said that it's going to take courage to take on the "monolithic challenge" of the housing crisis, and that interim housing is needed as a backstop for those who are just one month's rent away from being homeless.

"These individuals need a safety net for when the worst happens, and this is one of those safety nets," she said.

As of last month, LifeMoves Mountain View has been packed at near-full capacity with people who were homeless, all of whom have some connection to Mountain View. More than 60% of those staying in the housing complex previously lived in vehicles on the city's streets, which has become a controversial issue in recent years.

Among those people is Diane Jones, who has been at LifeMoves Mountain View for more than three months after previously living in a van. She said she fell into homelessness years ago and that she and her adult son have struggled to find a stable place to live since then. Homeless shelters were unpleasant and felt unsafe, she said, and it's been nice to finally have a place all to herself.

Jones said the case workers at LifeMoves were able to help her get a job and finally have an income to qualify for housing, and that she has since landed a spot in the Luna Vista apartments in Mountain View. She already signed the paperwork and expects to move out of LifeMoves in less than a month, opening up a spot for someone new to take her place.

Palo Alto is also now exploring a partnership with LifeMoves on a new interim housing development, which would be built at 1237 San Antonio Road, a former site of a water treatment plant that is located near the Baylands. In August, the City Council directed staff to apply for state funding through the Project Homekey program to help pay for the new facility, which is inspired by the Mountain View development and which provide shelters for between 88 and 132 rooms. The council is set to discuss the next steps in the application process this Monday, Sept. 27.

The full Board of Supervisors will vote on the $25 million funding proposal at the Sept. 28 board meeting.

Palo Alto Weekly reporter Gennady Sheyner contributed to this report. Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

Comments

Jon Castor
Registered user
Woodside
on Sep 24, 2021 at 12:51 pm
Jon Castor, Woodside
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2021 at 12:51 pm

We all know how important housing is. A big part of our problem is it's so expensive to build here. The LifeMoves Mountain View project is seen as much more cost effective than alternatives. It's an "interim housing facility", built in a matter of months, using modular construction. Bravo! However it seems the cost per unit still came in at $250 thousand, and per the article, permanent housing will cost more. (Derived $250k/unit from "the total cost of the project landed around $25 million... for the 100-unit facility"). Hope future projects can do even better so more can be offered housing.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 27, 2021 at 10:43 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Sep 27, 2021 at 10:43 am

The Mountain View effort is in an industrial location amid car shops and truck rental and storage facilities. Palo Alto does not have the same neighborhood with an all industrial focus. What ever we do have of that type is on the east side of 101. We do not have disposible land so quit trying to sandwich in housing in a location where you now have one story homes being torn dowwn to build two story homes. We are residential from one border to the other border. And the Fry's site never seems to get settled down to a realistic plan. Using a success in another city is not a good comparison - it is all about how much land any city has and the combination of residential and commercial.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 27, 2021 at 11:38 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 27, 2021 at 11:38 am

$25,000,000 is a mere pittance compared to the $200,000,000 big tech companies like DoorDash, Uber, Lyft et al spent to deny paying their gig workers benefits and a living wage while charging such high rates to restaurants that New York City has finally sued them for destroying so many businesses and is capping their delivery fees at 15%.

Put the homeless in the parking lots of these destructive greedy companies.


Devon Lassiter
Registered user
Barron Park
on Sep 27, 2021 at 12:57 pm
Devon Lassiter, Barron Park
Registered user
on Sep 27, 2021 at 12:57 pm

> Put the homeless in the parking lots of these destructive greedy companies.

^ Despite your noteworthy sentiments, these company parking areas are private property.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 27, 2021 at 4:19 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Sep 27, 2021 at 4:19 pm

Every property has to pay insurance, property taxes, state and federal taxes. Quit making decisions concerning how companies operate if they are meeting their legal requirements. Apple just had to clear encampments from a property they are ready to build on - putting people in motels.
This is a county issue - not a city issue. The county has to allocate land they control for further homeless development. They should be putting the bulk of the activity in San Jose which has a lot of unused land. They can house some people at the fair grounds which have bathrooms, kitchens, and a lot of parking space for rV's.
Quit pushing these issues onto companies who have to pay insurance for all of this.
Quit allowing RV's in residential areas - the fair grounds is a good place for them. RV's on residential streets interferes with city services for trash, street cleaning, delivery and pick-up trucks which are huge, and emergency equipments in the events of fires, etc. People pay for these services and are entitled to rceive them with no inteference.


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