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
The efforts of CWG and other organizations to provide housing and supportive services are helping; in the 2015 point-in-time homeless count, Santa Clara County found 6,556 homeless individuals and San Mateo County recorded 1,604 — down by 14 percent and an estimated 30 percent, respectively, from the last count in 2013.
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-eight percent of the homeless individuals in Santa Clara County 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 2015 Santa Clara County Homeless Census and Survey report and preliminary results from the 2015 San Mateo County Homeless Census.
Santa Clara County Homeless Census and Survey Summary
Other key points from the 2015 Santa Clara County Homeless Census:
● Census identified 6,556* homeless individuals residing in Santa Clara County during a point-in-time count.
● The number of homeless individuals identified in the point-in-time count decreased by more than 1,000 individuals since 2013.
● Nearly one-third (31%) of homeless individuals surveyed reported job loss as the primary cause of their homelessness.
● Ten percent of respondents reported eviction was the primary cause of their homelessness, while 6% reported increased rent and 4% reported foreclosure as the primary cause.
● Twenty-seven percent of respondents reported experiencing domestic violence in their lifetimes, including 44% of female respondents.
● Nearly 40% of respondents reported that prior to experiencing homelessness they were living in a home that they or their partner owned or rented.
● Eighty-four percent of respondents were living in Santa Clara County at the time they became homeless.
*These numbers should be considered conservative since it is well known that even with the most thorough methodology, many homeless individuals stay in locations where they cannot be seen or counted. Further, many women and families try to remain hidden for safety.
To read the full report on the 2015 Santa Clara County Homeless Census Survey, click here.
San Mateo County Homeless Census and Survey
● The 2015 point-in-time homeless census found 1,772** sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals, down from 2,281 homeless people in San Mateo County, a 24% decrease.
● Of these individuals, about 775 were unsheltered (living on streets, in vehicles, in homeless encampments) and 997 were sheltered (in emergency shelters, transitional housing, motel voucher programs, residential treatment, jails, and hospitals). These numbers reflect a 40% reduction in the number of unsheltered people counted, the first time in the past four homeless counts that the number of unsheltered people has gone down.
● The census counted 1,387 households, 89% of them consisting of adults only. Of the homeless households, 147 had dependent children.
None of the homeless families with children were found on the streets or in encampments; 35 of the families with children were staying in cars or RVs.
● 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.
● Redwood City had the highest number of unsheltered homeless people (223) in the county, followed by East Palo Alto (95). Both of these cities also have a higher percentage of the unsheltered homeless population than their share of the general population.
● The typical unsheltered homeless person in San Mateo County is a single man with at least one disability, including alcohol or drug problems, mental illness, chronic health problems and physical disability.
● Of census respondents, 75% were men, and 43% had at least one disability.
● The racial and ethnic composition of the unsheltered homeless population was 53% White/Caucasian, 32% Latino/Hispanic and 21% Black/African-American.
● Thirteen percent of the homeless individuals were veterans.
More than one-third of the unsheltered homeless people counted in the 2015 Homeless Count had been homeless for longer than 12 months or four times in the past three years; this number is down significantly from 2013, when 65% of those surveyed met the definition of chronic homelessness.
● Seventy-five percent of respondents were living in San Mateo County at the time they became homeless, and 57% considered San Mateo County their hometown.
**These numbers are conservative, because many homeless people stay hidden or live in places that are not meant for human habitation, such as storage sheds, unconverted garages, shacks and bus stations. The homeless census also does not track the substantial number of people who stay temporarily in the homes of friends or family but lack their own permanent housing.