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Mountain View’s Home for the Homeless

Danny Vesurai and Noelle Hanson

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Come this November, 50 people, mostly families and single women, will find a respite from the winter at a cold weather homeless shelter at Trinity United Methodist Church in Mountain View.

The church, which lies on the corner of Hope and Mercy Street, has long served the community. Hope’s Corner is a nonprofit formed in 2011 and currently partners with the church to serve breakfast for the hungry every Saturday morning.

From 2013 to 2017, the homeless population in Mountain View increased from 139 to 416, according to Santa Clara County Homeless Censuses. The new shelter, managed by Santa Clara County and aided by organizations like Community Services Agency (CSA) and HomeFirst Services, will respond to this increasing homelessness in Mountain View.

“This has the potential to be a breakthrough for Mountain View,” Santa Clara Supervisor Joe Simitian, who spearheaded the project, said. “Mountain View has struggled during the last few years to find a solution to address a very evident growth in the homeless population. This is not the total solution, but it absolutely is a significant step in the right direction.”

Contrary to other shelters that operate on a first-come, first-served basis, the shelter is referral-based only, so all clients must be referred by an approved agency like CSA. This allows for a guaranteed stay, added stability and case management with the goal of finding permanent housing by the end of the program. The referral process also eliminates any loitering outside the shelter, a common concern of nearby residents.

The shelter is targeting families and single women, who compose a particularly vulnerable and hard-tohouse population because this population has sensitive needs and is often uncomfortable housing with single men.

Operating from Monday, November 27 to Saturday, March 31, the shelter will provide clients with case management and job training along with shelter and food. CSA and HomeFirst will case manage clients, working with them to find stable housing and solve other problems by the time the shelter closes.

With the shelter’s newly renovated kitchen and the numerous food service job opportunities on Castro Street, the shelter aims to supply the proper training and entry-level skills for clients to establish a stable source of income.  

“HomeFirst is always looking to see how volunteers could provide workshops that would benefit the place,” former county Housing Development Coordinator Robert Dolci said. The shelter welcomes members of the community that can offer legal services, classes in resume writing and tutoring for school children living in the cold weather shelter.

The idea for the shelter originated from the closing of a Sunnyvale cold weather shelter in 2013. The closure brought Simitian’s attention to homelessness throughout the county, and he started to look for ways to combat it. Last year, Hope’s Corner asked Simitian for help with their plans for a new kitchen, and conversation sprung from that.

“It became clear to me that part of the church’s mission was to reach out to the community and try to be helpful,” Simitian said. “So I pulled a meeting with the church, Hope’s Corner and Community Services Agency and said, ‘Let’s talk about what could be possible if we bring the right partners and resources together.’”

Simitian and Hope’s Corner then recruited other organizations like the Downtown Streets Team, which provides outreach and helps with employment opportunities, and the Valley Healthcare for the Homeless Project, which provides mental health support.

When the shelter opens, clients will adhere to a strict schedule. On weekdays, doors for the shelter will open at 5 p.m., dinner will be served from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., lights will be out from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., breakfast will be served from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. and clients must leave the shelter at 7 a.m.

The schedule is slightly modified on weekends to account for Hope’s Corner Saturday morning breakfasts — where they feed approximately 250 people —  and church service on Sunday. The shelter and Hope’s Corner’s operations will run concurrently, so Dolci said the two will work together to ensure success.

“We want to not conflict with anything Hope’s Corner is doing or plans to do,” Dolci said. “So on Saturday mornings, the families and single women in the shelter will help set up. We’ll work with Hope’s Corner to mesh the two because we want this to be a good collaborative effort.”

Although no concrete plans exist for forthcoming years, Simitian hopes the shelter will continue and eventually expand.

“It’s going to be cold and wet again.” Simitian said. “Year after year, the goal is always to move people to more lasting solutions. There are always going to be folks who are struggling and need the most basic of support, which in this case involves shelter and hot meals.”

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Mountain View’s Home for the Homeless