Who operates BHCs?
HomeFirst Services of Santa Clara (HomeFirst) operates the BHCs. HomeFirst and is responsible for all maintenance, operations and services associated with the BHCs, including security. This includes all supplies, equipment, staffing and insurance needed to operate each site.
The City’s Housing Department monitors HomeFirst. As with all City-funded projects and services administered through the Housing Department, the agreement between the City and HomeFirst includes project deliverables, performance goals, and overall outcomes.
Why is this type of program necessary?
Homelessness and the lack of available housing for extremely low-income populations are pressing issues for the City of San José and Santa Clara County. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2016 Homeless Assessment Report, Santa Clara County has:
- The third-highest rate of unsheltered homelessness in the U.S.;
- The third-largest number of chronically homeless residents;
- The fifth-largest number of unaccompanied homeless youth;
- The fifth-largest number of homeless veterans; and
- The seventh-largest number of homeless residents on any given night.
While the City is currently in the process of funding thousands of affordable apartments for low- and moderate-income residents, it will be several years before they are all built. Initiatives such as the BHC program are attempts to help people in the short term while permanent housing solutions are in development.
Are there services and security on-site at the BHCs?
Yes. For the first year of the BHC pilot, the site operator is required to provide 24-hour, on-site security. In addition, program services staff are on-site to handle site management and resident services. After one year of operation, the City will reevaluate the need for 24-hour security.
Is bridge housing really the answer to ending homelessness?
No. Bridge housing brings residents one step closer to ending homelessness. Because of the enormous complexity of homelessness, many approaches are required to address the causes of homelessness, provide housing for the unsheltered, and prevent more people from falling into homelessness. Bridge housing is one of numerous housing solutions the City is pursuing to reduce homelessness.
Does the development of affordable housing, including bridge housing, increase crime and/or lower property values in nearby neighborhoods?
There is no valid evidence to suggest affordable housing increases crime or negatively impacts property values. To the contrary, several studies have concluded that, in many cases, newly constructed affordable housing enhances surrounding communities.
Will the BHCs become permanent?
It is currently anticipated that BHCs in the City will disband when AB 2176 sunsets in January 2022. However, if BHCs prove successful, then AB 2176 may be extended through state legislation. Additionally, BHC cabins and community buildings can be moved, giving the City the opportunity to use them for alternative purposes.
Is drug testing required?
No. Drug testing is not be required at the pilot BHCs. The BHC program does not require absolute sobriety but there are strict rules of behavior. If a resident's behavior violates the community guidelines, this could result in being removed from the community. Residents are not allowed to possess illegal drugs, manufacture drugs, or have drug paraphernalia on BHC property. Alcohol and marijuana are not allowed in common areas.
Many communities across the country have adopted the “Housing First” model, including San José and the County of Santa Clara. Housing First is an approach to help people exit homelessness without preconditions and barriers to entry, such as sobriety and treatment. Supportive services will be offered to residents to help maximize housing stability and prevent returns to homelessness.
How were the BHC sites selected?
AB 2176 requires the City’s BHCs to be located on City-owned or City-leased property. In addition to considering 99 City-owned sites, the Housing Department considered 23 sites owned by Caltrans, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, and the Valley Transportation Authority. Those 122 potential sites were studied and scored after receiving significant input from the community, City Council, and development partners.
Sites had to have access to utilities, meet minimum size requirements, satisfy setbacks from schools and residential neighborhoods, and address other pertinent factors. Ultimately, two sites were selected for the initial BHC pilot program.