For every one individual exiting homelessness and finding stable housing, there are three individuals entering the cycle, according to recently released preliminary findings from the biennial Point in Time count for Santa Clara County.
The increasing numbers and needs of the newly homeless are definitely felt by the small team at CSA who are focused on the unhoused population. “Our approach is to meet clients where they are at,” says Brandi Jothimani, Homeless Prevention Services Program Director. “This can vary in scope from assisting clients in finding employment, searching for housing or helping them manage very delicate medical issues.”
Just as the landscape of housing and affordability is ever changing in Silicon Valley, CSA’s scope of homeless services has also evolved. One of the newly added services is a weekly unhoused support group conducted by case managers Janice Bonello and Ramon Robles. Attendees include individuals who are living on the streets, in their vehicles, couch surfing or exiting homelessness. The group focuses on creating a safe space for people to speak about the hardships they face every day. An opportunity to speak about these kinds of hardships is not always welcomed in other spaces, making it extremely isolating for our clients.
“Treat Yourself” is another recently added program component which is a day-long event with activities, food and personal care items for our homeless clients. “Our clients especially enjoyed the opportunity to create artwork which is on display in our lobby,” says Janice Bonello. “For the majority of our unhoused clients, surviving is at the forefront of all decisions. Having one day to freely express themselves through painting and making art is a rarity. I still hear clients talking about the event two weeks later. CSA staff stated it was heartwarming to see clients having a space to themselves where they could eat pizza and socialize with one another. The simple act of talking to another person about your experiences can be deeply comforting, especially when that other person also understands those experiences.”
“While it can be discouraging seeing the rising number of homeless and daunting trying to provide the best services to a growing number of individuals, our case managers find motivation in keeping a human connection and the dignity of our clients at the center of the work they do each day,” says Brandi.