SAN JOSE -- The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has approved agreements that will put $8 million toward implementing two programs this fiscal year to increase the amount of affordable housing for the homeless and people released from the prison system.
The county is directing $4 million on an annual basis toward a Permanent Supportive Housing Fund that assists individuals with special needs, including the chronically homeless. That money is a portion of the Measure A, 1/8th-cent sales tax that was approved by county voters in 2012.
The other $4 million, this on a one-time basis, is intended to help with the housing needs of those who have been released from behind bars either through reforms to California's three-strikes law or the statewide "realignment" to relieve prison overcrowding.
Ky Le, the county's director of homeless systems, said there is strong coloration between lack of housing and the risk of recidivism.
"This is a public safety measure," Le said. "We think getting people housing assistance will keep down the risk" of them breaking the law again.
A "point-in-time" homeless census count, conducted over two days in January, found 7,631 homeless individuals in Santa Clara County. It also was estimated that 19,063 people in the county would experience homelessness this year. With those numbers in mind, the county and city of San Jose have increased funding toward solving the homeless issue.
"There's pressure to deal with encampments, and the way you really do that is come up with policies to address affordable housing," Le said. "While we're continuing to work with the state and federal government to find resources, we understand that we have to do something ourselves."
Jennifer Loving, executive director of the nonprofit Destination: Home, notes that a 2012 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report found that San Jose and Santa Clara County had the nation's highest number of unsheltered homeless people. That, she said, demonstrates the need for these kind of public funds to help people get into housing.
"That's a pretty impressive pot of money," Loving said. "I think that shows that county officials truly understand the problem. They get it, and they realize there needs to be funding to make the strategy work."
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