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.