If it seems to you that there are a lot of people living outside around here, you’re right! So why are there so many homeless people in San Jose? A recent HUD report found that San Jose/Santa Clara County has the highest rates of unsheltered homeless in the nation! Sadly, we won. We have greater rates of unsheltered homeless than any large city in the United States — including LA, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York.
I will start with trying to answer the following question, over the course of several posts:
Why do so many homeless people live outdoors in Santa Clara County?
How did we win that ignominious prize?
Many people think it’s because we have a lot of homeless people. That is true. We do have a lot of homeless people, but not more per capita than many other large cities. Indeed, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland all have more homeless residents per capita than we do.
The really striking thing about Santa Clara County is how few shelters we have. Very few people know this. I started to suspect we were on the left end of the bell curve after hearing multiple patients explain how they had tried to get into shelters but were unsuccessful because they were all full. I had also had interactions with the homeless in Seattle, Portland, and a small town in Oregon, and it seemed to me that there was a different emergency housing milieu that what patients were telling me about in San Jose. A clinic volunteer found great data from the federal government (HUD), and we were able to compare our county’s information with the country’s other large cities. The infographic (wait for it to load! It’s worth it!) on this blog shows the most interesting findings. I looked at homeless people and shelter beds per capita, since that makes it easier to compare with cities of different sizes. I was especially interested in homeless beds (shelters, transitional housing, and permanent housing) per homeless person, which for our county was the lowest rate compared with other large cities in America.
InnVision, Homefirst, the Salvation Army, Cityteam, and a handful of other small shelters house homeless people in various programs, each doing excellent and very difficult work. The Sunnyvale Armory, which used to take in homeless people at night during the winter months, was torn down this year.
This certainly is a major part of the reason our county has the highest rates of unsheltered homeless in the nation; very often there is literally nowhere for a homeless person to go except outdoors.