North Santa Clara County residents don’t enjoy the same access to public services as the rest of the region, according to one county supervisor. A proposal to have social service workers share office space with north county nonprofits aims to change that.
Supervisor Joe Simitian announced last week that he wants to put some of the county’s Social Services Agency (SSA) staff into the offices of nonprofits, making it easier for residents to connect with important services.
Whether the SSA delivers those services is another matter. The agency has come under a lot of scrutiny over the years for, among other things, running an unsafe foster care center and dropping calls from the child abuse hotline.
Earlier this year, the county secured a new north county office for the SSA in Mountain View after losing the lease on a previous facility. Still, because the agency helps some of the most disadvantaged county residents, it’s apparently difficult for clients to even make it to the northern satellite office.
“While having an office close to our clients is tremendously helpful, it still presents challenges for people without reliable, affordable transportation,” Simitian said in a statement.
The supervisor’s proposal would put SSA staff in nonprofit offices once or twice a week, on a trial basis.
“These programs serve the county’s most vulnerable residents,” Simitian said. “Where it’s possible, I’d like us to go to them, instead of asking all of them to come to us, which is sometimes a lot to ask of those with the least resources.”
It’s a lot like the "sidewalk office hours" he holds throughout his district.
“Frankly, I think we all learn a lot when we get out of the office,” Simitian said.
Nonprofits often deal with people who qualify for county benefits, so it makes sense to co-locate with SSA staff, said Mila Zelkha of Palo Alto-based InnVision Shelter Network.
“At our offices, we’re already seeing clients that receive or qualify for county-administered benefits like CalFresh or CalWorks,” she said. “It just makes good sense to put as many services as possible in one place.”