Nonprofit offers expanded shelter resources to homeless families during winter 

click to enlarge InnVision case manager Andrea, right, has provided assistance to Tiffany, an Air Force veteran, and her three children. - COURTESY INNVISION SHELTER NETWORK
  • courtesy InnVision Shelter Network
  • InnVision case manager Andrea, right, has provided assistance to Tiffany, an Air Force veteran, and her three children.

The nonprofit InnVision Shelter Network is rolling out an emergency expansion of its shelter capacity to help protect homeless Peninsula and South Bay residents from the plummeting temperatures and increased rain the area is projected to experience over the next three months.

Much of the need for expanded shelter space is expected to be in north Santa Clara County, according to InnVision spokeswoman Amy Wright. On any given night, there are an estimated 34 families in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale who need a place to stay, Wright said. Last week, during one of the largest rainstorms to hit the Bay Area in recent years, there were 54 families in San Mateo County on a waiting list for emergency housing.

Wright acknowledged that compared to the total number of homeless people in both counties, the number of families in need of shelter might seem relatively low.

"This is solvable," she said of efforts to provide transitional housing for homeless families.

The most recent federally mandated biannual homeless count in 2013 revealed that Santa Clara County had a total of 7,631 homeless residents, just a few hundred more than San Francisco, which had 7,350 homeless individuals. San Mateo County's numbers were much lower, with 1,298 people lacking adequate shelter.

To meet the expected need during the winter months, Santa Clara County has allocated just more than $163,000 for hotel vouchers for homeless families, Wright said, noting that a similar voucher program has existed in San Mateo County for about 10 years.

In addition to housing homeless families in local hotels, InnVision also provides accommodations in facilities like the Commercial Street Inn in San Jose, which has private rooms as well as communal spaces that foster a sense of mutual support among the residents, Wright noted.

By the second night of a family's stay, Wright said, InnVision is already providing intensive case management services under the organization's "beyond the bed" model, which focuses on getting clients into long-term housing and equipping them with the resources and skills they need to remain housed. Clients can take classes in money management, financial literacy, parenting and job seeking.

Referring to concerns some program participants may have about limited rental history, Wright noted that InnVision has built relationships with local landlords who are willing to rent to its clients. While some property owners might be wary of renting to the recently homeless, Wright said landlords who work with InnVision understand that clients who have graduated from its classes are likely to be good tenants.

InnVision's temporary increase in shelter capacity is also meant to meet the needs of homeless individuals, Wright said, and while the cold, wet weather creates a health hazard, it also provides an opportunity to reach those who've previously avoided intervention.

"Some folks are not as interested in coming in, but cold weather is a factor and it gives us a chance to engage with the hardest to serve," Wright noted.

Among its shelter providers, InnVision's Hotel de Zink program has been allocated an additional $75,000 to increase its capacity from 15 beds to 20 for the next 90 days. Hotel de Zink is a shelter service that rotates between various houses of worship in Palo Alto.

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