In our role as the community’s safety net, we’ve received a growing number of calls from residents, businesses, and Public Safety about RV and car encampments in Sunnyvale, asking SCS to reach out to people living in their vehicles and connect them to our services. Our case workers and partners at Downtown Streets Team knock on doors, wave through windows, and leave information sheets. We find that many people living this way are working during the day. But with no place to live, they are constantly looking for safe, well-lit places to park at night.
One of the first questions our case workers ask is, “How did you become homeless?” We know from our own data that loss of income is the leading cause of evictions for many people here in our community. But, loss of income doesn’t always mean loss of a job. More than 1/3 of workers at small businesses (under 100 employees) don’t have sick time, which means if they miss work for an illness, they are not paid. Part-time workers don’t have steady work shifts from week to week. A loss of just a few hours of work can lead to losing one’s home.
Many people sleeping in RVs and cars are hoping it’s a temporary situation until they are able to find more permanent housing. Unfortunately, their options are limited if they want to live close to jobs. For teachers, nursing assistants, car mechanics, and bus drivers, affordable housing is often 40+ miles away.
SCS has responded to this new reality, with specialized services to prevent homelessness and quickly help people find housing. We now have dedicated Housing Case Managers who focus on connecting landlords and tenants. A Benefits Specialist connects residents with government services. Financial coaching helps renters improve their credit scores. For the most vulnerable, we have intensive Case Management services, helping to stabilize families. Our year-found food program has also expanded from four to 22 distribution days each month, allowing a family of four to receive food valued at $462/month.
The housing crisis and the growing income divide will not be easily fixed. SCS continues to advocate for policies and programs that will help low-income residents.
Executive Director, Sunnyvale Community Services