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Santa Clara homeless population count shows bittersweet trends

Number of unhoused families sees sharp increase in Santa Clara, report says
Number of unhoused families sees sharp increase in Santa Clara, report says 03:33

SAN JOSE - Elected leaders in San Jose and Santa Clara County touted encouraging new numbers showing a decline in the county's overall homeless population. At the same time, they also acknowledged an alarming increase in the number of homeless families living on the streets.

"I'm just a person like anyone else. But they just treat you like trash," says Sara Smith who has been homeless for three years. Sara is a mother of two -- an 11-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter."

Sara has lived with her children in homeless encampments in North San Jose. For a time, she was shuttling between different hotels using emergency housing vouchers until the assistance ran out.

"It's disappointing because you would think that people would actually care and not look at us like we were drug users and mess makers and thieves. I work construction -- or at least I used to. I had a job," she said.

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan say the situation of families like Sara's highlights the needs for more emergency housing options.

"I think it just points to the need to have more quick-build communities so that we can help give people that opportunity to have their own private room with a door that locks with access to services," Mayor Mahan said.

The mayor is pushing for increased funding in the upcoming budget for emergency interim housing project which he argues can get people off the street quickly and inexpensively.

"I was in one of the creeks. And there were outreach people and they were offering help and I had to grab onto that," says Juan Bonales who moved into emergency housing about six months ago. He's currently working part-time for Goodwill and in a job training program.

"I consider myself a different person. I stay away from the old crowd as much as possible," he said.

Sara has yet to be that fortunate but is fighting to claw her way out of homelessness for the benefit of her children.

"They're both great kids. They're just trying to survive like their mom," she said. 

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