South Bay non-profits merge to help homeless

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Encampments like one seen recently at Kelley Park in San Jose are where the chronically-homeless live, but the face of the homeless has changed with more veterans and more families. "These are people that had jobs, people that went to school that have education, and just one bump, one accident, one circumstance, and you find yourself here," said Felita McKenzie, a client at the Innvision Shelter Network.

The agency that addresses homeless needs in San Mateo County had a consistent waiting list of 50 always in need of help. So, Shelter Network initiated talks last fall to merge with its counterpart, Innvision, that serves Santa Clara County. "On the boards, we had several investment bankers and a couple of VCs that really knew how to jump into a project like this, do the proper exploration and due diligence, and move the process forward," said Innivision Shelter Network CEO Karae Lisle.

The merger took effect this week. By operating more like a for-profit company, the combined non-profit says it will be able to hire 10 to 20 case workers and take on an additional 1,000 homeless clients. "I would be on the streets. It's really hard these days to be able to afford anything because of the way the Silicon Valley is," said Estelaina valentine, a homeless single parent.

A census done last year indicates Santa Clara County has more than 7,000 homeless on any given night or 18,000 annually, while San Mateo County has just over 2,100 on any given night and 6,700 annually. The combined Innvision Shelter Network will continue to focus on providing classes for financial literacy, anger management, job search, and daycare for children to free up parents to look for work. That's a major benefit for Valentin.

In a poem she wrote about the help she received McKenzie says, "We will lift you up and help you cope. Don't lose faith. Don't lose hope."

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