Frances Herbert knew that her brother’s name would be among those read to remember the 39 homeless men and women who died last year in Santa Clara County. But when she heard it, it was still a shock.Andrew Todd Moe was just 23, the youngest on the list. The oldest was 81. The annual memorial at the EHC LifeBuilders shelter on Little Orchard Street is a reminder that on any given night, 7,000 people in the county sleep on the streets, in tents by the creeks or abandoned buildings. Of those, 2,500 are believed to be chronically homeless.
“This is an opportunity to honor people’s lives and remember our commitment to end homelessness,” Jenny Niklaus, EHC LifeBuilders CEO said to the dozens of friends, relatives, elected officials and non-profit representatives gathered at the shelter on Thursday, December 13.
The number of people being honored this year marked a significant drop from last year’s 61, a sign that the efforts to focus on the vulnerable chronically homeless are working, Niklaus said. But even one death is too many, she added.
Some died of exposure, others from untreated illnesses, several drowned or were hit by cars and two were victims of violent attacks. Their names will be added to 600 plus names engraved on a large stone memorial in the shelter’s courtyard.
Andrew Todd Moe, Hebert’s brother, suffered from drug and alcohol addiction, was in and out of jail and treatment centers and shelters. He was unable to work, and at times, lived by a creek. And then thing began to turn around during the past two, Hebert said.Moe had moved out of a shelter, gotten a job and was attending AA meetings, she said. He was staying at their grandparents’ home. But when they returned from a trip, he had passed away in his bed. The family is waiting for a coroner’s report.
While remembering those who died last year, Mayor Chuck Reed also said the community can be proud of the progress made so far to find housing for those on the streets.
“We still have people dying on our streets,” Reed said, “But let’s take this moment to be grateful that we have been able to house the chronically homeless who would have died on the streets if we didn’t get them into housing.”
That progress is the result of Housing 1000’s Care Coordination Project, which is led by EHC LifeBuilders and joined by partner organizations that include Downtown Streets Team, InnVisiion The Way Home and New Direction. The goal is to house 1,000 chronically homeless by the end of. It is part of the nationwide Housing 100,000 campaign.
Case managers visit shelters, parks, creeks and roadways, seeking the most vulnerable homeless men and women, many who have been on the streets for decades. They’ve made more than 2,600 contacts with homeless people, and added their names to a registry.
As case managers are assigned to clients, they become advocates to help them find housing, medical and mental health aid, counseling and other supportive services that will help them stabilize their lives. HousingONE provides a Website for the public to donate money for furniture and other move-in necessities.
Since July, 246 have been housed through the Housing 1000 campaign, and 75 through the Care Coordination Project. Another 119 chronically homeless men and women are on a list waiting to be assigned to a case manager.
“Those are the people nobody thought we could house,” Niklaus said. “We did it and we’ll keep doing it.”
To reach the goal, housing must be found for another 700 plus men and women still on the streets and in shelters, not an easy task. Rent for apartments is at an all-time high in Santa Clara Valley, many of the clients are unemployed, have criminal records and no recent experience with renting homes.
“This population had fallen off people’s radars over many, many years” Jennifer Loving, HousingONE director, said in an interview. “From that grew a mythology that these folks don’t want to be housed or couldn’t be housed.”
The strategy is not only humane, it’s cost-savings, Loving points out. To survive, a chronically homeless individual is often in and our of jails, hospitals, treatment centers and shelters, which costs $60,000 a year. To house that same person costs $16,000 a year.
The housing shortage is also the cause of so many more homeless encampments that the city has been struggling with in the past year, city officials say. Camps, which numbered 60 at one time, are removed, and within days, the tents and tarps are back, creating makeshift villages that pollute the county’s waterways and generate safety concerns in neighborhoods.
“We have to look at how do we develop new models for housing folks.” Jacky Morales-Ferrand said at a recent San Jose City Council study session on homeless camps. “We’re just moving the problem to different sites.”
At the December 13 memorial, Herbert and others shed tears for those who didn’t survive, in particular, her brother, Andrew. His name and the 38 others will be added to more than 600 engraved on a stone memorial in the shelter courtyard.
Those who died while homeless
Joan “Gail” Hughes
Daniel A. Lopez
Andrew Todd Moe
Robert “Terry” Spilker