Social Services Agency Takes Show on the Road

December 1, 2014


SAN JOSE –Santa Clara County’s Social Services Agency has launched a pilot program sending County Social Workers to open ‘satellite offices’ at nonprofits around the northern part of the County. Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian says he hopes that by “taking our show on the road,” the Agency can make it easier for more County residents to access vital services.

Earlier this year, Simitian helped secure a new Mountain View office for the Social Services Agency, after it lost the lease on its previous location. Simitian notes that, “While having an office close to our clients is tremendously helpful, it still presents challenges, particularly for people without reliable, affordable transportation.”

In July, Simitian proposed that the County Administration explore ways to send Social Services staff to the offices of North County and West Valley nonprofits for one or two days per week, a practice sometimes called “co-location,” on a trial basis. Starting in November, sites began hosting Santa Clara County Social Workers and Second Harvest Food Bank representatives at their offices one day a week. With this model, clients are able to access services from their local non-profits and apply for medical and food aid through the County at the same time and place.

North County and West Valley nonprofit partners include Community Services Agency of Mountain View-Los Altos, InnVision Shelter Network in Palo Alto, Sunnyvale Community Services, and West Valley Community Services. These organizations already provide safety-net services that complement County-run programs.

“These programs serve the County’s most vulnerable residents,” said Simitian. “Where it’s possible, I’d like us to go to them, instead of asking all of them to come to us, which is sometimes a lot to ask of those with limited resources.”

Simitian says, “In many ways, this is a lot like the Sidewalk Office Hours I hold throughout my district. Accessibility is key. And frankly, I think we all learn a lot when we get out of the office.”

“At our offices, we’re already seeing clients that receive or qualify for County-administered benefits like CalFresh or CalWorks,” said Mila Zelkha of Palo Alto-based InnVision Shelter Network. “It just makes good sense to put as many services as possible together in one place.”

Naomi Nakano-Matsumoto of West Valley Community Services concurs. “We have clients who are juggling work, childcare, and limited transportation access,” said Nakano-Matsumoto. “Before, we had to tell them to go to another office in another city to access County programs. A one-stop shopping approach helps them tremendously.”

During the County Social Service Agency’s transition to its new Mountain View location earlier this year, Agency staff were temporarily housed in the offices of North County nonprofits. In Simitian’s view, “It worked well for the County, the nonprofits, and our constituents. It was a winner all around.”

“The County has built strong partnerships with local nonprofits, and this takes those partnerships and our services to the next level,” said Simitian. “We are serving more clients, more easily, and more effectively.”



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