San Jose’s population of unsheltered homeless residents could balloon to nearly 13,000 by 2024 based on past population trends if the city does not take any action to reduce homelessness by then, city officials said this week.
That projection is based on baseline population data from the city’s 2019 Point-in-Time census of sheltered and unsheltered homeless residents as well as historical trends, officials with the city’s Department of Housing told the City Council on Tuesday.
The city’s population of unsheltered residents increased by roughly 45 percent between 2018 and 2019, up to 7,922 people, and would increase by an additional 62 percent through 2024 to 12,870, according to the city’s projections.
The city’s current goal, which it has proposed to the state’s housing and homelessness grant program, would instead decrease its unsheltered population by 4 percent from the 2020 total and 41 percent from the projected 2024 total.
Housing department officials said the city is already making progress on that goal, as data from the 2022 Point-in-Time count found a 3 percent reduction in unsheltered residents since 2019.
“We think we’re making significant progress, even though … the headwinds aren’t in our favor,” said Ragan Henninger, the housing department’s deputy director. “As we house one person, there’s two more new people who enter our homeless system for the first time.”
Several factors are driving the city’s projected increase in unsheltered residents, including the expiration of the state’s moratorium on COVID pandemic-related evictions as well as the pandemic itself leading to residents losing their jobs and subsequently their homes.
Those factors are also in addition to existing issues like high housing and health care costs and a lack of enough affordable housing units — according to Henninger, for every 100 residents in need of extremely low-income affordable housing, only 30 units are available.
The city has received roughly $41 million to date since 2020 from the state’s Homeless Housing Assistance and Prevention grant program and is set to receive an additional $23.2 million from the program’s latest round of dispersals.
HHAP funding can be used for a variety of methods intended to reduce the number of unsheltered homeless residents and ensure they have permanent housing, including rapid rehousing programs, street outreach and temporary transitional housing.
According to Henninger, the city has utilized previous HHAP funding to establish a quintet of interim housing facilities. That housing has sheltered 1,157 residents since 2019, 69 percent of whom have transitioned to permanent or temporary housing.
The city claims it has also prevented some 6,739 residents from becoming homeless via its program that helps people and families who are at risk of becoming homeless.
Henninger said the city plans to use some 60 percent of its next round of HHAP funding to expand its emergency interim housing supply by at least 10 percent.
The remaining 40 percent would go toward street outreach and encampment management, financial assistance for homeless children and young adults, the city’s centralized homeless shelter hotline and administrative costs.
While the city has yet to receive an official allocation from the next round of HHAP funding, Henninger said city officials expect to receive around $30 million.
“We’re in a crisis now and … it’s certainly not going to get better if we do nothing,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said. “It can get a whole lot worse, and it’s hard to imagine because this crisis is as bad as certainly the city’s ever experienced.”