Community Working Group helps individuals and families who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness in the Midpeninsula to live in safe, affordable homes.
CWG serves extremely low-income working individuals such as medical assistants, teachers, gardeners, retail clerks and their families; as well as those who have lost jobs or are unable to work due to disability. Our clients range from women, men and children in housing crisis, to chronically homeless individuals and families. The people CWG helps mirror the greater community; they are young and old, and from all ethnicities and backgrounds.
CWG aims to preserve the vital socioeconomic diversity of our community, while helping families and individuals avoid falling into the cycle of homelessness.
Housing and helping
CWG is working to end homelessness in the mid-Peninsula. In the 2017 point-in-time homeless count, Santa Clara County found 7,394 individuals experiencing homelessness, and San Mateo County recorded 1,604. Santa Clara County’s numbers reflected a special effort to count youth experiencing homelessness and were up by 13 percent from the count in 2015. San Mateo County’s numbers were down by 16 percent.
The counts included people living on streets, in vehicles, and in encampments, as well as those in emergency shelters, transitional housing or institutions.
Causes of homelessness
Job loss and the cost and availability of housing in the Midpeninsula are the primary factors contributing to homelessness. Sixty-two percent of the individuals experiencing homelessness in Santa Clara County surveyed said the key obstacle to obtaining permanent housing is unaffordable rent.
Most individuals experiencing homelessness have one or more health conditions such as physical disability, mental illness, chronic depression, substance abuse problems, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or developmental disabilities.
Who are the homeless?
Biennially, counties across the country conduct comprehensive counts of their homeless populations, in order to better understand and help them. The following information is drawn from the 2017 Santa Clara County Homeless Census and Survey report and preliminary results from the 2017 San Mateo County Homeless Census.
Santa Clara County Homeless Census and Survey Summary
Key points from the 2017 Santa Clara County Homeless Census:
● Census identified 7,394* individuals experiencing homelessness in Santa Clara County during a point-in-time count.
● The number of individuals experiencing homelessness identified in the point-in-time count increased by 13%, from 6,556 individuals, in 2015.
● The census counted 294 families experiencing homelessness.
● The census counted 2,530 unaccompanied children and transition-age youth** (under 25) experiencing homelessness.
● More than one-third (37%) of individuals experiencing homelessness surveyed reported job loss as the primary cause of their homelessness.
● Twenty percent of respondents reported alcohol or drug use was the primary cause of their homelessness, while 16% reported eviction, 14% reported relationship break-up, and 13% reported argument with family or friends as the primary cause.
● Sixty four percent of respondents reported a disabling condition such as a developmental disability, HIV/AIDS, or a long-term physical or mental impairment that impacts a person’s ability to live independently.
● Sixty-two percent of respondents said the primary obstacle to permanent housing is that they cannot afford the rent.
● Eighty-three percent of respondents were living in Santa Clara County — 61% of them for 10 or more years — before they began experiencing homelessness.
*These numbers should be considered conservative since it is well known that even with the most thorough methodology, many individuals experiencing homelessness stay in locations where they cannot be seen or counted. Further, many women and families try to remain hidden for safety.
**The County also conducted a specialized count of unaccompanied children and transition-age youth under the age of 25. This special count was part of a nationwide effort to improve understanding of the scope of youth homelessness. Trained youth enumerators who were currently or recently experiencing homelessness conducted the special count.
To read the full report on the 2017 Santa Clara County Homeless Census Survey, click here.
San Mateo County Homeless Census and Survey
● The 2017 point-in-time homeless census found 1,253* sheltered and unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness in San Mateo County, down 16% from the 2015 count.
● Of these individuals, about 637 were unsheltered (living on streets, in vehicles, in homeless encampments) and 616 were sheltered (in emergency shelters, transitional housing, motel voucher programs, residential treatment, jails, and hospitals). These numbers reflect 25% and 44% increases in the number of people living in cars and RVs.
● The census counted 902 households experiencing homelessness, 35% fewer than in 2015.
● The number of unsheltered families experiencing homelessness decreased by 48%, from 35 families in 2015 to 19 families in 2017.
● Many families with children also live in places that do not meet the HUD standard of homelessness (i.e. they are living temporarily with friends or families), yet they are very precariously housed.
● Pacifica had the highest number (112) of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in the county, followed by East Palo Alto (98) and Redwood City (94).
For more information, see the executive summary on the 2017 San Mateo County Homeless Count.