To solve a problem, first you have to understand it. That’s what more than 300 volunteers were trying to do while most of us slept last week: Fanning out across Santa Clara County in the wee hours, they conducted a detailed survey of homeless residents. Officials launching a campaign to house 1,000 of the area’s most vulnerable homeless within two years hope this information can revitalize their campaign to end chronic homelessness here.
The homeless are counted regularly; we know how many there are and roughly where they stay. This survey is different because it will result in a detailed database, including names, so agencies can track not just trends but individuals and determine who most urgently needs help. The 33-question survey assesses risk factors like mental and physical illness and substance abuse, so services can be better deployed. It’s a promising addition to the county’s toolbox.
San Jose is one of 85 communities participating in the national 100,000 Homes campaign, which aims to house 100,000 of the most vulnerable by 2013. The campaign continues the local focus on “Housing First”: If you place someone in a home and then provide the right services, rather than trying to treat problems on the street, the person will stay in the home. The simple concept has helped reduce chronic homelessness by about 40 percent nationwide.