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Morgan Hill
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September 22, 2020

Homelessness on the rise in MH, county

Morgan Hill has seen a steep increase in the number of homeless individuals within its city boundaries, according to newly released statistics from a 2017 county homeless report.
The survey revealed a 13 percent increase in homelessness across the county since 2015, with a point-in-time census of 7,394.
In Morgan Hill, the number of “unsheltered homeless” increased 379 percent from 81 in 2015 to 388 in 2017, according to the Santa Clara County Homeless Census and Survey Report.
“We saw that our numbers went up pretty significantly,” said Morgan Hill Chief of Police David Swing after reviewing the report. “If you were to ask any of our officers…they will tell you they have seen the increase in our homeless population in Morgan Hill. Would they tell you it went up by 379 percent? That seems like a high percentage to me.”
Swing, as well as longtime homeless advocate Jan Bernstein-Chargin, said the 307-person increase of homeless counted in Morgan Hill over the last two years could be skewed for several reasons, although she agrees that there are more homeless. They pointed to the rising cost of housing and rental properties in Morgan Hill and the temporary closure of the Thousand Trails RV Park on Uvas Road west of Morgan Hill as two major factors.
“I think (the numbers for 2017) are pretty accurate. The 81 (homeless people counted in 2015), I think, was pretty low two years ago,” said Bernstein-Chargin, Board President of Gilroy-based Compassion Center that assists homeless throughout South County. “We’re seeing more families becoming homeless, and that means it’s not just one individual but a family of four or six on the street.”
The federally required biennial Point-in-Time Homeless Census and Survey was conducted in Santa Clara County during the last 10 days of January 2017, only weeks after Thousand Trails was evacuated due to flooding. The survey provides a snapshot of homelessness in the 15 cities and unincorporated areas that comprise Santa Clara County.
“Yes, our numbers have increased. Yes, that does impact our services,” Swing said. “Yes, we have seen an increase in our calls to service related to quality of life issues related to homelessness.”
MHPD officers have responded to and seen an increase in reports of someone sleeping or passed out on a sidewalk who may be in need of medical assistance, according to Swing. They have also seen an increase in public nuisance calls such as urinating in public.
In neighboring Gilroy, the unsheltered homeless numbers also increased from 179 in 2015 to 295 in 2017, according to the county homeless census. The sheltered homeless—Gilroy has transitional housing for homeless unlike Morgan Hill and a cold-weather shelter in winter months—also went from 427 to 439 for a total of 722 homeless counted, an increase of 64 percent over those two years.
This year, 215 volunteers, service providers and county and city employees conducted the count along with dozens of currently or recently homeless paid guides. Many community and faith-based organizations also assisted with volunteer recruitment to identify census workers.
More homeless living in RVs
One newer trend among homeless—and something that has become more visible in Morgan Hill and Gilroy—is the use of Recreational Vehicles, or RVs, that are parked on the side of roads or in shopping center parking lots. These individuals count as “unsheltered” because they are not in an area designated for housing with coinciding services such as water and sewer hookups.
“These are not retired couples traveling the country in (large) RVs. These are people who found vehicles to live in that may have no working appliances, that are filled with mold, that may not drive at all or they may have nothing to haul it with, but that’s where they are sleeping,” Bernstein-Chargin said.
In Morgan Hill, where nonprofits such as Cecilia’s Closet offer clothing and St. Catherine’s Parish distribute food to needy families, MHPD has partnered with Morgan Hill Unified School District, the Compassion Center and some faith-based organizations on a new pilot “safe parking” program for those displaced but living in RVs. It just started July 8 and allows for up to nine vehicles to park in designated areas (not disclosed to the public) for up to 90 days while they are assisted in finding more permanent or stable living situations.
“It’s really time to think outside the box and try more nontraditional methods (to help remedy the homeless problem),” said Bernstein-Chargin, whose Compassion Center has begun an effort to build a “tiny homes village” in South County. They plan to bring it before the County Board of Supervisors in the coming months. “We want to be able to use nontraditional solutions to provide safe and legal methods to get people back on their feet,” she added.
Donations to the Compassion Center can be made at or by visiting its Facebook page. They will also host a Sept. 30 fundraiser at Castillo Hillside Shire Winery in Morgan Hill. Tickets are $75 each. For information, contact [email protected]
Ways to help with homelessness
While the report shows decreases in the number of homeless veterans and people with disabling conditions who have been chronically homeless for one year or more, the community saw increases in the number of families and unaccompanied youth ages 0-24.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development designated this year as the baseline data collection year against which progress toward ending youth homelessness will be tracked.
“While the overall community saw an increase driven by runaway housing costs, I’m heartened by the decrease in areas we’ve been focusing on, such as chronic and veteran homelessness,” County Board of Supervisors President Dave Cortese said.
Cortese added that the homeless count will help in allocating Measure A (Affordable Housing Bond) funds, which total $215 million this fall “to build housing and to complement our current county investments that provide essential services to our homeless residents.”
The point-in-time count includes both unsheltered persons and those in emergency shelters and transitional housing. The vast majority of the homeless counted were unsheltered, living on the street, in abandoned buildings, in vehicles or encampments
The biennial Homeless Census and Survey uses a consistent federally-approved methodology to estimate the number of people who are homeless in Santa Clara County at a point-in-time with a goal to develop strategies to reduce homelessness.
The full report can be viewed at
•Donations at or
•Fundraiser on Sept. 30 at Castillo Hillside Shire Winery in Morgan Hill. Tickets are $75 each. Contact [email protected]

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