Santa Clara County census to help fine tune homeless services

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Nearly 400 volunteers fanned out before dawn to take a census of the homeless across Santa Clara County. It's a survey done every two years to fulfill a requirement to get federal housing money. The findings allow local government and homeless agencies to fine tune service to a changing population.

The face of the homeless has been changing, and this new census might put a new light on who they are. In the previous survey two year ago, the number of chronically homeless and homeless veterans dropped, replaced by a new group.

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"The woman that makes your sandwiches at the deli that you go to or the janitor scrubbing your floors at night. Those are the faces of homeless today in Silicon Valley unfortunately," said Andrea Urton, CEO of HomeFirst, the largest provider of homeless services in Santa Clara County. The census helps to align services to shifting needs.

"They're going to see if there's an increase in homeless families this time around. Well, that's going to release funding to serve homeless families. I know there's been a movement to create safe parking spaces for people with Rv's and cars. A lot of our families unfortunately are in those areas," said Ms. Urton.

Mayor Sam Liccardo says the point-in-time count also helps to prioritize spending on services.

"It's telling us what is working, what we need to focus our dollars on doing."

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A woman staying at the HomeFirst shelter in Sunnyvale requested that we not show her face or use her name. She is getting help after being homeless for several years.

"It's been six long years in different vehicles, and my health is to the point I need emergency surgery, and I'm very grateful for those services," she said.

Two-thirds of the homeless in Santa Clara County are men. Only one in four are living in shelters.

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