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Home Not Found: The Cost of Homelessness in Silicon Valley

May 26, 2015 / By Daniel Flaming

New “Cost of Homelessness” Report Unveiled by Destination: Home and Santa Clara County

the Nation’s Most Comprehensive Report on Homelessness Reveals New Insights on Silicon Valley’s Homeless Population and Provides Roadmap for Allocation of Resources

SAN JOSE, Calif. – May 26, 2015 – Today, Destination: Home and the County of Santa Clara released the largest and most comprehensive body of information assembled in the United States to understand the true cost of homelessness in Santa Clara County. The report titled “Home Not Found,” analyzed more than 25 million public records to identify the annual cost of homelessness in this community. Additionally, the report outlined the cost of services provided to 100,000 county residents wrestling with long and short term homelessness. The report was released today at a gathering of civic and community leaders at the Le Petit Trianon Theatre in San Jose.

The study found that Santa Clara County spent more than $3 billion between 2007 and 2012 to provide services for 104,206 homeless residents. This equated to a cost averaging $520 million per year. Medical diagnoses and the associated health care services were the largest component of homeless residents’ overall public costs. The second largest component of the overall cost of homelessness was associated with justice system involvement. Santa Clara County has a significant opportunity to spend money more efficiently to better serve the population and provide long term solutions to the homeless population.

Additional key findings in the “Home Not Found” report include:

  • In a given year, there are about 2,800 persistently homeless residents in Santa Clara County. Each of these residents cost the county about $83,000 per year. The top 10 percent of the homeless population accounts for 61 percent of public costs associated with services for homeless residents. Residents in this group cost the county an average of $62,473 per person per year.
  • Many individuals are able to find housing after only short episodes of homelessness. Out of the population that experienced homelessness between 2007 and 2012, about 20 percent of the population was unhoused for only one month. Another 32 percent were homeless for two to six months. This shows that for half of the homeless population, homelessness is not a long-term way of life. The population is tremendously resilient and many are able to resolve homelessness with minimal intervention.
  • The rate of persistent homelessness is higher among women than men in Santa Clara County. Seventeen percent of females versus 14 percent of males were recorded as persistently homeless in an average month. This is much higher than national estimates. It is important to integrate this finding into the larger community conversation about homelessness in Santa Clara County so that the causes can be better understood. This trend needs to be explored further.

“The numbers are absolutely staggering –our county has spent more than $3 billion over a six year period to provide services to homeless residents,” says County Supervisor Mike Wasserman. ‘Home Not Found’ shows that adopting smart strategies to reallocate resources and address homelessness may better utilize taxpayer money and transform lives. It is much more cost-efficient to provide housing and services to the top five percent of the homeless population than to have them out on the streets.”

“The Home Not Found Report helps us better understand the population we are trying to serve so that we can help them to re-enter long-term, stabilized housing,” said Jennifer Loving, executive director of Destination: Home. “For too long, we’ve experienced the cost of these services without fully understanding the impact on our community. This study makes the impact clear, so we can better care for those in need and use our resources in the most efficient way possible.”

For nearly eight years, Destination: Home’s work in the community has shown prevention, rapid re-housing and supportive housing to be effective. Today’s report identifies solutions available to the community to better serve and eventually reduce the homeless population.

With the combination of diverse data streams and 25 million health, public safety, and other records, the report analyzed the population that experienced homelessness in Santa Clara County between 2007 and 2012. The study was compiled by the Economic Roundtable, a non-profit, public benefit corporation that conducts applied economic, social and environmental research that contributes to the sustainability of individuals and communities.

“The findings of this report echo our observations during Destination: Homes’ work with the Housing 1000 program. Seventy-five percent of people housed through this program remain housed today. The public cost associated with each of these residents pre-housing was $62,473, and $19,767 post-housing,” added Loving. “Therefore, the estimated annual cost reduction for those who remained housed was $42,706. Housing first programs work; we know this from our own experiences.”

“This is the most comprehensive body of data and analysis in the United States,” said Dan Flaming, president of Economic Roundtable. “We linked records across all justice system, health care, social services, nonprofit and housing agencies, including information from each service provider. Analysis across these different agencies provided unprecedented to better serve the homeless population in Santa Clara County.”

This data provides the foundation for a community dialogue to continue to work to end homelessness. Strategies our community can consider are as follows:

  • Investing in and targeting resources to keep people housed and prevent them from falling into long term homelessness, which is often costly and difficult to escape. These types of programs ensure that a family does not become homeless because they cannot make a rent payment, that young adults do not exit foster care without a home, and that every veteran transitioning out of the military has a place to return to.
  • The data from Destination: Home’s experience with the federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program, demonstrated that 93 percent of participating families remained housed after the program ended. If we invest in short-term shallow housing subsidies, resiliency will grow, and resources can be diverted to those who are in crisis and require a deeper investment.
  • Those who suffer the most require the deepest levels of support. For disabled and long term homeless men and women, stable housing is the foundation of recovery. Santa Clara County can dedicate itself to increasing the supply of housing and creating new housing opportunities to alleviate this worst kind of suffering.

“Silicon Valley is home to unprecedented wealth and technology innovation built upon new ways to use data,” said Ben Spero, Board Chair for Destination: Home and Managing Director at Spectrum Equities. “Now, we can do the same to work to solve homelessness, here in our own backyard.”


About Destination: Home

Destination: Home, a program of The Health Trust, is a public-private partnership implementing collective impact strategies to end homelessness in Santa Clara County. Destination: Home drives and aligns resources to create permanent housing and sustainable support systems built for the long term. The organization is improving how systems work together to end homelessness, as well as protect individuals and families at risk of becoming homeless. In this role, Destination: Home’s Board also serves as the HUD Continuum of Care Board for the San Jose /Santa Clara City and County Metropolitan area and works with the Santa Clara County Office of Supportive Housing as a Collaborative Applicant to expand local allocations of federal funding.

CONTACT: Caitlin Scott, Full Court Press Communications
(510) 550-8176 /