We have all heard the outrageous stories of deteriorated homes selling for over a million dollars to be torn down – even as legions of homeless women and men huddle in tents under the freeways or sleep in their cars along the streets, while even college students are sleeping in their cars. Meanwhile, middle class workers paying over 50% of their income in rent are fleeing the valley for lower priced housing inland and making long commutes to work, worsening gridlocked roads. Apartments and single family homes are crammed with three or more families sharing the rent. Calls for help finding housing and rental assistance inundate overwhelmed social service organizations, while frail seniors without homes trudge streets with suitcases or shopping carts.
The data is clear. Homelessness has increased by 31% in the County to 9,706 and 42% in San José to 6,097 a night over the past two years, according to the Santa Clara County Continuum of Care’s January Point in Time Count for HUD. Chronic homelessness has increased, as has the number of young adults and seniors who are homeless. While providers are moving more chronically homeless people into permanent housing, the number of people becoming homeless is increasing faster than providers can house them.
As the pressure to construct more affordable homes increases, some neighbors who already live in homes are pushing back (even against housing seniors), incorrectly assuming that affordable housing means increased homelessness and crime in their neighborhood. Some cities, highly dependent on business income, are resisting new state laws that make it less onerous for affordable housing developers to build in municipalities that have not fulfilled their housing development commitments and have a severe imbalance of jobs to housing.
In response, the Church is grappling with solutions rooted in our faith. Together, Catholic Charities and Charities Housing are assisting over 6,000 individuals with housing and housing services each year. Meanwhile, many parishes are helping respond to the crisis of affordable housing and homelessness with rental assistance, utilities, food, safe parking and rotating shelters. Charities Housing is building as many units as quickly as possible to help alleviate the crisis.
But as people of faith, we can’t just leave it to the service providers, volunteers, and housing developers to solve the crisis of affordable housing. We need to step up and advocate for policies that support affordable housing. If you are already serving the homeless, I invite you to take the next step and advocate for them. I invite you and your fellow parishioners, like those from St. Teresa Parish, to show up at City Planning Commission hearings and support the beautiful, safe, affordable housing developments built by Charities Housing. If you have a vacant room, consider offering it at below market to an individual vetted by Catholic Charities’ House Sharing Program. Look into building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in your back yard.
You may have other creative solutions. I invite you to join the community conversation on solutions to homelessness convened by American Leadership Forum and the County at the Fairgrounds on Saturday, September 21.
More than 9,000 of our neighbors who live without housing desperately need your help. Please join us. Together we can change lives for good.
Housing Sharing Informational Event to be Held on September 18
Catholic Charities is hosting an upcoming informational session on the County of Santa Clara’s House Sharing Program. The event will be held on September 18 from 1 – 3 p.m. at Villa Ragusa in Campbell.
This free event is open to residents of Saratoga, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto and Campbell, and those who work in the area.
The House Sharing Program is designed to expand affordable housing options for Santa Clara County residents through the use of underutilized homes and stability for community members with varying income levels, such as seniors, persons on fixed incomes, working individuals, transition youth, students and veterans.
The event will include an overview of the program, panel discussion with current House Sharing clients, and a discussion with County Supervisor Joe Simitian. Opening remarks will be given by Lindsey Caldwell, Director of Emergency Programs and Housing Services at Catholic Charities. Light snacks will be provided during the event and there will be time for questions from the audience.
For more information and registration, call (408) 325-5100, ext. 5377 or visit CatholicCharitiesSCC.org/house-sharing. Registration is limited to 100 people.
This event is sponsored by Bank of America and United Way Bay Area.