"All's well that ends well": County supports housing for developmentally disabled

September 11, 2018


SAN JOSE – The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors today voted unanimously to take the first steps in building affordable housing for individuals with developmental disabilities, a community that is unique in its housing and service needs.

The Board directed staff to identify $40 million in County funds to support the creation of affordable housing units with supportive services specifically for those living with developmental disabilities in the Very Low Income (VLI) or Extremely Low Income (ELI) brackets.

County Supervisor Joe Simitian had originally proposed using up to $40 million in “Measure A” housing funds approved by the voters in 2016. His initial proposal was met with resistance, however, from some colleagues and community members who wanted 100% of the available housing funds for County residents who were already homeless, chronically homeless or at immediate risk of homelessness.

Simitian argued it made no sense to, “essentially require people to slide into homelessness before we provide assistance. I don’t think that’s sound policy, and I don’t think it’s a fundamentally humane way to address the needs of extremely low income and very low income people with developmental disabilities.”

“The smart, humane, and cost-effective approach is to prevent homelessness, not require it as a necessary precondition to assistance,” said Simitian.

Given the resistance to using “Measure A” funding specifically for people with developmental disabilities, Simitian suggested looking for other sources of funding, and was pleased to hear from County Executive Jeff Smith that Smith thought County staff could find the proposed $40 million from other sources without using “Measure A” funds. On Simitian’s motion the Board directed Smith (5-0) to do just that.

“I wanted to get us away from a zero-sum conversation – to see if we could address both sets of needs. It appears we did. One of those times when all’s well that ends well.”

“Many of these folks live with aging parents,” said Simitian. “Given that developmentally disabled community members are particularly at-risk of grave harm when they become homeless, it’s absolutely crucial that we find ways to keep them housed, with the services they need.”

“I’m pleased the Board of Supervisors unanimously directed the County Executive to find forty million dollars to address the housing needs of individuals with developmental disabilities,” said Jan Stokley, executive director of Housing Choices.

“They’re a vulnerable group of county residents who are not yet homeless, but are just a heartbeat away from a housing crisis.”

A developmental disability is typically defined as a disability which:

  • Severely affects at least three of seven areas of daily living – for example, communication, ability to be financially self-supporting, social skills, physical ability, cognitive ability, or ability to provide basic self-care,
  • Emerges before the age of 18 (though not always),
  • Is likely to continue for the rest of the person’s life, and
  • Is severe enough that the person needs supportive services.

“An estimated two-thirds of adults with developmental disabilities live at home with aging family members. With very limited personal income, the death of a parent could easily leave them with no place to live,” said Leslye Corsiglia, Executive Director of Silicon Valley at Home, in a letter to the Board. “Parents are understandably concerned as their adult children face both the loss of their support network and their housing. Safe, secure, affordable homes are needed to give those with developmental disabilities a place to call their own.”





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