The County of Santa Clara and EHC LifeBuilders announced they will open the Cold Weather Shelter Program for the homeless on Monday, November 28, 2011. Located at the National Guard Armories in Gilroy and Sunnyvale and the Boccardo Reception Center in San Jose, the program provides 365 emergency shelter beds nightly from the Monday after Thanksgiving through the end of March. Last year the program served 2,693 individuals, most (90%) at the San Jose and Sunnyvale sites.

The County of Santa Clara contracts with EHC LifeBuilders to operate the shelters for homeless individuals, veterans and youth during cold winter months. Clients receive a warm bed and two meals a day. The program serves a high number of chronically homeless individuals who make up 36% of the total homeless population on any given night.

“The Cold Weather Program provides life-saving shelter to thousands during the winter months,” said Jenny Niklaus, CEO ofEHC LifeBuilders. “This shelter is absolutely critical, but our efforts cannot stop there. At EHC, we are dedicated to developing programs that address the underlying causes of homelessness and identify permanent housing solutions so that one day, there won’t be a need for an emergency shelter program in our community.”

Chronically homeless individuals – those experiencing homelessness for more than a year or three episodes of homelessness in four years – face complex challenges that exacerbate their homelessness such as physical disabilities, mental illness, and substance abuse.

“Any individual can fall on hard times, but when we see the same people year after year in temporary cold weather shelters, it means that something is not working,” said Ky Le, the County of Santa Clara’s Director of Homeless Systems. “The County is now working closely with EHC LifeBuilders andDestination: Home to address the issue of chronic homelessness by providing integrated services to deal with its underlying causes and facilitating the creation of more permanent housing solutions.”

The Destination: Home/Housing 1000 initiative is a countywide public-private effort with the goal of permanently housing 1,000 chronically homeless individuals over the next two years. The initiative is engaged in registering and prioritizing homeless individuals based on their health status and time on the street. The goal is to quickly move those at greatest risk off the street and into permanent housing with appropriate supportive services. The local effort is part of the national 100,000 Homes campaign which has housed 10,000 chronically homeless individuals nationwide in its first year and is on track to house 100,000 by July 2013.

The 2011 Santa Clara County Homeless Census and Survey reported at least 7,067 people countywide are homeless on any given night, showing only a slight decrease in the number reported in the last survey conducted in 2009. Despite the volume in need, there are only 1,000 emergency shelter beds available county wide during the winter months which means the majority of those who are homeless will remain outside.

The Cold Weather Shelter Program locations are the Boccardo Reception Center in San Jose at 2011 Little Orchard Street, the National Guard Armory in Gilroy at 8940 Wren Avenue and the National Guard Armory in Sunnyvale at 620 East Maude Avenue. Emergency shelter beds are allocated through at daily lottery at the Boccardo Reception Center and on a first-come, first-served basis at the National Guard Armories.