San Jose Considers Funding Motel Vouchers for the Homeless

As cities across the Bay Area search for ways to house California’s growing homeless population, San Jose housing officials this week are introducing a new motel voucher program as an alternative to over-capacity shelters.

On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council is expected to approve a $1.95 million contract with the nonprofit LifeMoves. The agreement would run through December 2020, and officials predict it would offer beds to approximately 60 homeless families—specifically those that include domestic violence survivors.

LifeMoves already operates services in San Jose—namely its safe parking program—and runs a motel voucher program in San Mateo County. Besides rolling out a similar voucher program in San Jose, LifeMoves will provide case management, housing location assistance and referrals for services such as meal assistance, healthcare and childcare.

“The Motel Voucher Program will ensure households are kept together in safe and temporary housing, until a more permanent housing solution is identified,” Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand said. “While families with minor children and victims of domestic violence are the target households served with this program, other vulnerable households may be served, for example a senior with medical condition, but would be evaluated for participation on a case by case basis.”

The nonprofit won the bid after San Jose’s Housing Department put out a request for proposals and nobody responded. Housing officials opted to reward the contract to LifeMoves based on their prior experience, something Morales-Ferrand said is consistent with a city procurement rule that allows for “sole sourcing of services” if the bid turns back no responses.

LifeMoves’ San Mateo County voucher program provides families with minor children motel rooms for up to 15 days on average. In 2018-19, some 91 percent of their program participants left for emergency shelters or transitional housing. And 7 percent of them found permanent housing.

While housing officials support permanent housing first and foremost as the way to end homelessness, Morales-Ferrand said that short-term solutions—like emergency shelters—“play a critical role.” But these shelters are often maxed out in terms of space, leaving families in Santa Clara County with no place to go. In 2018 to 2019, the YWCA of Silicon Valley received 762 requests for shelter that they were unable to meet with its 16 beds. 

“Motel vouchers add capacity to the homeless shelter system when emergency shelters are full,” Morales-Ferrand said. 

The vouchers will be funded through a state grant called the Homeless Emergency Aid Program. San Jose received $11.4 million in those funds that must be used by June 20, 2021. Exactly $2 million of that has been set aside for the motel vouchers. 

The San Jose City Council meets at 1:30pm Tuesday inside the council chambers at City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St. in San Jose. Click here to read the agenda. 

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

3 Comments

  1. Would be nice if we could get folks reimbursed for what they lost in the 2017 flood. These are people who often vote in favor of helping the homeless, yet when the city causes harm to people who pay rent and own homes, they fight us for years in court using taxpayers $$$ to hire attorneys. The city of San Jose has admitted to its negligence which caused flood damages to our properties. Time to stop wasting taxpayer $$$ dragging this out! Settle up, and tell the water district to do the same!

  2. This does NOTHING to solve or even mitigate the real problem. There are increasing numbers of mentally ill, drug-addicted, criminal, violent, and disgusting people wantonly using our public and private properties to defecate, litter, abuse drugs, commit crimes, scream, bathe, burn, and just generally destroy the community in which we live. The city and police do NOTHING about this. NOTHING. These are not people that will or want to stay in motels for free. What is it going to take for the local government and law enforcement to make our city liveable again? And for the citizens that give money or feel sorry for them, please wake up and stop contributing to the problem. Yes, there are homeless people that would love some help and are law-abiding and respect their community by not trashing it. These people are the minority, and should definitely be helped. Yes, provide shelters for the genuine homeless, but also sweep the streets, creeks, trails, parks, and medians of these street criminals camouflaging themselves as the needy. City council and police, do your jobs!

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