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Housing, humanity, and project homekey in Santa Clara

These are the endorphin moments that keep us going: the groundbreakings, the ribbon cuttings that take place in-between the very, very hard work of persuading neighborhood after neighborhood, community after community, to support, preserve and embrace affordable housing of all kinds - and to understand that every single member of our community deserves a stable, safe place to sleep every night.  

Project Homekey is visibly and dramatically moving the needle on homelessness in Santa Clara County. To date, the state has approved funding to support the conversion of 270 hotel rooms to 224 permanent affordable and supportive housing units. 21 units will be converted to transitional housing, 355 hotel rooms will be rehabbed and used for emergency interim housing with the intent to later convert them to permanent housing, and 412 new units of emergency interim housing will be created using modular construction. 

This morning’s endorphin moment was provided courtesy of the Bella Vista ribbon cutting in the City of Santa Clara: an older and under-utilized hotel that was rehabbed by Resources for Community Development and their team in just seven months - and now provides 64 units of interim housing for formerly unhoused individuals who are enrolled in Santa Clara County’s Housing Disability Advocacy program.

These individuals will now remain safely housed while they wait for their permanent housing units to be ready. New residents were appreciative and relieved – two women noted they will feel so much safer sleeping in private, secure units than they had while sleeping on the streets of Santa Clara.  

A similar housing development has been proposed for the corner of Benton Street at Lawrence Expressway. This empty lot is right on a bus line, complements the multifamily housing units that already exist on the three other corners, and is located close to shopping, a park and schools.

I am listening intently to the community feedback on the proposal just as I did some years ago when a group of residents in a San Jose neighborhood were largely opposed to the creation in their neighborhood of a transitional housing facility.  

In partnership with the County Office of Supportive Housing, the City of San Jose, and Abode Services (the onsite 24-hour service provider), I worked with the San Jose neighbors to address their specific concerns and tried to be responsive to their requests for mitigation, particularly regarding security, parking and tidiness.  

Since the Willow Glen Studios ribbon cutting, this San Jose transitional housing development, located at the edge of a residential neighborhood, has helped lift more than 100 people out of homelessness and into permanent housing. Several of the residents who objected to siting the facility in their neighborhood joined me at the one-year anniversary of the grand opening and shared with everyone in attendance their initial concerns were not realized and they were comfortable with the operation of the facility.   

Transitional (also called interim) housing provides a vital bridge between unsheltered living and permanent housing. The site proposed at Lawrence & Benton will fulfill this mission to help people experiencing harder times than any of us can likely imagine make their way slowly toward a permanent place to call home.  

I always encourage community members to provide input to me and county partners regarding specific issues that, if addressed, could allay concerns about any proposed emergency shelter, transitional housing development or permanent, supportive housing development.

It is the mission of County government to ensure all residents can access safe, secure places to sleep and are supported with the services they need to get on their feet. When we hold on to that vision, centered in collaboration and humanity, we will help end homelessness together. 

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