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Homeless Survey Underway

Outreach workers search under bridges, near freeways and railroad tracks for Milpitas' homeless residents.

It's 7:35 a.m. on Tuesday morning. A few feet from the Landess Avenue I-680 freeway onramp, underneath a canopy of pine trees, a homeless man in a red sleeping bag wakes up to a voice. 

, the county's homeless concerns coordinator couches down and asks the man laying on ground, groggy from sleep, if he would take a survey. After some discussion, the man agrees.

While the early-morning outreach to the homeless might resemble the biannual homeless census required by the federal government, organizers say that the campaign, Housing 1000 SV, is more about faces than numbers.

"The Housing 1000 SV campaign is different because rather than talking about the numbers, we are trying to create a registry to identify individuals and match them with services," says Ky Le, Santa Clara County director of homeless systems.

The survey has two purposes: to identify and prioritize services based on their health and then, within Santa Clara County, house 1,000 chronic homeless people within the next two years, Le says.

Dolci and a volunteer from LifeGate Church, spend at least 20 minutes talking to the man, trying to get personal data on health, a cell phone number and a photo. All the information will be entered into a database to prioritize homeless individuals for housing and services.

Finding homeless encampments is not so easy. The county's homeless count in January surveyed 138 individuals who said they were based in Milpitas. On Tuesday morning, two carloads of volunteers for Milpitas were able to locate 11 homeless individuals–including five who declined to participate and one unable to communicate in English.

Felix Reliford, city of Milpitas principal housing planner, went out Tuesday morning to conduct the survey. He said he saw homeless individuals living in tents and sleeping in mattresses placed over crates.

As part of his job, Reliford compiles reports on how the city distributes federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. While there are no shelters located in Milpitas, some of the money is given to nonprofits in the form of grants used to assist homeless and low-income individuals from Milpitas, such as Catholic Charities of Santa Clara Shared Housing Program and EHC Lifebuilders, which runs a shelter in San Jose.

Housing 1,000 SV differs in that it is an effort to find permanent housing for 1,000 chronically homeless people in Santa Clara County by June 2013. The latest census count estimated a slight drop in homeless from two years ago. Those numbers are expected to be released by the county on Friday at San Jose City Hall.

Milpitas' numbers are expected to have doubled from since 2009, but in the county, the overall number decreased.

"It didn’t go up," Dolci said, "Actually, it went down a little from the last count in 2009. With the economic downturn we expected that number to go up because of the severity of loss of jobs and income."

The funding for many of these programs has also changed.

"We have been able to house some of the shelter population, not so much with federal funding but with local funding," he says.

One example of this was the ability to provide vouchers through the Housing Authority to 200 individuals since October 2010. He hopes that they will be able to duplicate those efforts this year and add another 200 homeless individuals to those 200 now in permanent homes.

But the most significant change in the effort to end homelessness in the county is the support of whom Dolci describes as the "politicos."

"At this point in time, this is the most political will and effort to respond effectively to end chronic homelessness in this county than I have ever seen in my 18 years working" he says.

"The effort by the Mayor of San Jose, several council people and supervisors banding together through their Blue Ribbon Commission to end homelessness and the strategies to end homelessness within 10 years and dedicate resources to this have been huge."

Most recently, the Santa Clara County Executive Office is conducting an analysis of services to see if there's a better way to realign those services for better results.

"That's a huge commitment by the executive office to help in this effort," Dolci says.

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