Über-prosperous Silicon Valley isn¹t a place one expects to find thousands of homeless people. But a 2006 Housing and Urban Development (HUD) count found over 7,600 men, women, and children without a home in Santa Clara County, which includes not just Silicon Valley but Palo Alto and San Jose.

Unnerved by the count, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors commissioned a Blue Ribbon panel on Ending Homelessness and Solving the Affordable Housing Crisis. One of the panel’s recommendations was that a facility for homeless people just released from the hospital be started, so there would be a place for them to recuperate fully. Surprisingly, in 2008, seven private and public hospitals from up and down the county, including Stanford University Hospital, began collaborating on the Santa Clara County Medical Respite Center.

The Santa Clara County Medical Respite Center
Isabelle T. Walker

In its first two years, the center spared participating hospitals 783 bed days. As the average cost of a bed day in that area is between $3,000 and $1,000, that works out to be roughly a million dollars in savings in the program’s first two years.

The respite center is situated in wing of a sprawling San Jose homeless shelter called EHC Life Builders. Though close to the big shelter, the center is distinctly separated. Along a long wide corridor that’s breezy and clean with linoleum floors and sofas for socializing and reading are seven bedrooms. Six have two beds, one has three. Janet Kohl, RN, is the nurse coordinator who ensures residents are following their plan of care and completing paperwork for Social Security Disability (SSI) and Medi-Cal. Those things are what ultimately get the residents into housing.

Also on staff is a full-time social worker, a part-time internist, part-time psychologist, and part-time psychiatrist. To read more, go to homelessinsb.org.


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