The homeless population of Santa Clara County takes many forms. Eighteen percent of this homeless population consists of people living in vehicles. The expanding number of people living in cars and recreational vehicles (RVs) has sparked concerns about public safety and brought attention to the housing crisis in Palo Alto. According to the CDC, the homeless population is at a higher risk of being exposed to COVID. Other concerns raised in the community include the visibility of RVs, narrow lanes, and parking challenges.
Research shows that paying attention to health, employment, and education is considered equally important as housing in order to avoid recurrent homelessness and instability. Results from a 2019 survey showed that the top reasons for homelessness were job loss, drug and alcohol usage, divorce or separation, eviction, and being asked to leave a family or friend’s house. The other key reason for homelessness in Palo Alto is the high cost of housing. The overwhelming lack of housing supply has created housing costs that are unreachable for many Palo Altans. In 2019, I supported the motion to provide $250,000 to the homeless in our community. This program prioritized housing and social services to twenty of the most chronic homeless members in Palo Alto. By approaching the economics of housing in an intelligent and realistic way, we can find better ways to address the housing and homelessness problem.