Homelessness - What To Do?
By Bill Somerville, Founder 
The homeless issue grows every day in the Bay Area, especially in places like Oakland, but we can't lose hope. Almost 130,000 Californians were homeless in 2018, and the majority were unsheltered, meaning they were living in streets, parks, and makeshift camps. This is the highest rate in the nation. 
We have seen a steep increase in the homeless population just in Alameda County since 2017. Half of this population lives in Oakland and have done so for years. Self-reported data compiled by EveryOne Home shows that the vast majority of people who are homeless in Alameda County are not visitors, but our own neighbors who lived here before they became homeless. Over half of the homeless population in Bay Area have lived here for 10+ years.
Almost a third of the Bay Area's homeless population qualifies as chronically homeless-defined as an unaccompanied individual who has been continuously homeless for more than one year, or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years. People of color are over 4x more likely to become homeless in the Bay Area than white individuals, even though they make up less than a third of the general population. In addition, chronically homeless individuals tend to be male adults over the age of 25.
Episodic, or hidden,  homelessness is less obvious to spot. These individuals tend to be younger on average, and they cycle in and out of stable housing multiple times during a 12 month period. Someone with limited income assistance who rents a room weekly or even daily could experience episodic homelessness when they run out of funds before the end of the month.
The most common type of homelessness is transitional. People often become transitionally homeless due to the rising costs of living in the Bay Area, even if employed full-time. Experts on the homeless crisis say California's low-income seniors are especially vulnerable because of the state's housing affordability crisis: With fixed income and high rent prices, an illness or job loss can quickly put them on the streets. A recent study by UC San Francisco found that half of single homeless adults are now 50 years of age or older.
Many of those who are evicted from their homes couch surf or live out of their cars while they save money for a new place - the number of people living in RVs in San Mateo alone doubled between 2017 and 2019. PVF is supporting LifeMoves' Safe Parking for Families expansion into Half Moon Bay to provide RV dwellers a safe location to park at night and connect them to available services. It's worth remembering that when someone has to find new housing suddenly, these costs become more than just one month's rent, but additionally a new security deposit and last month's rent as well. This amount can take months to save for individuals already living paycheck to paycheck in the most expensive areas of the country.
PVF's Bill Somerville and CLSEPA's Phil Hwang (photo by Craig Sherod)
Several years ago, PVF partnered with the Peery Foundation and Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto to create the Rescue Housing Fund to support clients who are short on rent and facing eviction due to unforeseen circumstances. We've seen this program expand since then, as it highlighted a desperately needed service on the Peninsula.
For individuals who have been chronically homeless, the Downtown Streets Team has been addressing critical needs of food, shelter and employment for over a decade. The model is simple, yet innovative: homeless people are employed as volunteers to do janitorial cleanup work in their city. The results have been impressive; over 2,000 individuals throughout the greater Bay Area have exited homelessness through their program. PVF provides ongoing support to Downtown Streets Team by administering an Immediate Response Case Worker Program: as needs arise, the case workers send in a request for immediate small grants.

Downtown Streets Team
The homeless crisis is so complicated, it can be overwhelming, but we can't lose hope. A targeted solution may not eradicate homelessness, but it can make an immense difference in people's lives.
About the Editors
James Higa
James Higa, Executive Director, brings 28 years of executive experience from Silicon Valley, working with Steve Jobs to change the face of technology. He was at the birth of the personal computer revolution as a member of the original Macintosh team and was deeply involved in the creation of many products and services at Apple over 3 decades. He has a long history of public service as a board member of Stanford's Haas Center and in grassroots relief efforts.
Bill Somerville, Founder, has been in non-profit and philanthropic work for over 50 years. He was the director of a community foundation for 17 years, and in 1991, he founded Philanthropic Ventures Foundation. Bill has consulted at over 400 community foundations, on creative grantmaking and foundation operations. Bill is the author of  Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker
About PVF
PVF is a demonstration foundation practicing unique forms of grantmaking and innovative philanthropy. Our primary interest is in the creative and significant use of the philanthropic dollar.
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