A A +


St. Vincent de Paul Santa Clara County

Child Homelessness: A Growing Crisis

Child Homelessness: A Growing Crisis

Homelessness is devastating. The number of people dealing with homelessness in the US is staggering, making the subject difficult to comprehend and one that overwhelms us. While it’s challenging to think of anyone without shelter, the thought of homeless children is especially alarming; however, it is a reality that requires our compassion and attention.

National Numbers

  • California accounted for 15 percent of families experiencing homelessness in the US, with 24 percent of people experiencing homelessness as part of an unsheltered family.
  • Nearly 2.6 million families with children experience “worst-case housing needs,” meaning they are incredibly rent-burdened, their income is at or below the poverty line, they spend half of their income on housing, and receive no housing assistance from the government.

Santa Clara has approximately 2,700 homeless residents under 18—the highest number in the Bay Area counties. Experts suspect that the numbers are even higher because many women withhold that information for fear of having their children taken away.

In October 2021, officials in Santa Clara County launched Heading Home—an ambitious project to end homelessness in Santa Clara County by 2025—to address the growing homeless population. In the meantime, more than 2,500 children continue to feel the effects of homelessness.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Homeless Children

Not surprisingly, the pandemic accelerated the rate of homelessness in the US, yet, the right to a decent, safe, and affordable home was already out of reach for many children and families even before the COVID-19 crisis—particularly for Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous families.

The fallout from high unemployment rates led to food insecurity and evictions, expanding child homelessness. The devastation of the pandemic continues, and it may be years before the full impact is known. 

The Consequences of Child Homelessness

Having a safe, stable home is a basic need for all children. Homelessness, unstable housing, and the lack of affordable housing have dire outcomes for children’s health, education, and future earning potential. 

Education Concerns

Attending school can be a struggle when children are without a permanent place to stay. As a result, they are behind on lessons, homework, and other school activities. In addition, frequent moves from shelter to shelter or other accommodations result in students in constant flux. Experts estimate that school transfers cause students to lose anywhere from four to six months of academic learning. 

In addition, homeless children often must deal with the stress of adjusting to a new school—yet another unfamiliar environment—and can be the subject of bullying. The challenges of attending school for homeless children contribute to higher dropout rates. Without a diploma, they have fewer employment opportunities as adults, making them susceptible to future homelessness.

Health Issues

Being homeless can exact a high health toll on children. People experiencing a homeless crisis are also likely to lack adequate food sources. While a lack of sufficient and nutritious meals can cause health concerns for anyone, it can be especially devastating for children. 

For example, asthma—one of the most common illnesses among homeless kids—is further aggravated by displacement, interrupting asthma maintenance treatments. Staying in shelters can also increase exposure to allergens for asthmatic children, triggering attacks. In addition, very young children housed in shelters have a high rate of iron deficiency anemia.

In addition, the combination of hunger and homelessness at an early age increases the risk of developmental delays, creating significant educational, emotional, and health disadvantages.

Homelessness can also cause multiple mental and behavioral health issues. Being homeless is highly stressful for anyone, but the experience can cause deep trauma for children, lingering well into adulthood.

Help Is Available

Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes, and fortunately, help is available if you are experiencing homelessness, are at risk of homelessness, or are experiencing food insecurity. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Santa Clara County offers homeless services and rent, utility, or food assistance

The Countywide Shelter Hotline: (408) 278-6420 provides assistance and resources to people currently experiencing homelessness. In addition, the Santa Clara County Homelessness Prevention System at (408) 926-8885 can help if your housing situation is unstable or you’re at risk of becoming homeless.

Help Us Help Homeless Children

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul of Santa Clara County has been helping struggling families and individuals since 1948 with dignity, compassion, and love. There are so many ways you can help us help those in need. There are multiple volunteer opportunities and several additional ways to support us. Your donations of cash, or even a car,in any condition, can make a significant difference in the life of a homeless child.

Housing and Feeding Families in Need

Homelessness is increasing at an alarming rate across California, but particularly so in Santa Clara County. The 2019 bi-annual Homeless Census estimated that for every person who exits homelessness, another three people seek assistance. Even though the 2021 Census was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic due to the ongoing consequences of the crisis, it’s probably safe to assume that the current numbers are even higher than they were in 2019. 

Experts generally agree that the pandemic has exacerbated existing racial and economic inequalities. Even those who have homes may be struggling to pay rent, facing eviction, or unable to pay for food or necessities. Now, more than ever, it’s essential that people who can give back to their communities do so—and that those in need know where to go to get help. 

How to Get Help

If you are experiencing homelessness, are at risk of homelessness, or are experiencing food insecurity, it can be daunting to ask for help, even if you know where to find it. While everyone’s situation and needs will be different, here are a couple of starting points to consider when looking for support:

  • Public Resources. Look for state-, county-, or city-funded resources that focus on helping people experiencing homelessness. For example, the County of Santa Clara Social Services Agency and the City of Santa Clara provide family services and food assistance for those in need.

    Assistance comes in a variety of forms. Depending on your family’s specific situation, you may qualify for subsidized housing, rent/mortgage assistance, or even help with your utility bills. In addition, you may receive food assistance in the form of supplemental nutrition programs or food delivery/distribution.  
  • Private Resources. Private organizations such as St. Vincent de Paul help those in need by giving directly or putting them in touch with other organizations in their Emergency Assistance Network in Santa Clara County.

    The type of help will vary from organization to organization; for example, charities such as St. Vincent de Paul specialize in person-to-person service, including rental assistance, utility assistance, food and other items, and spiritual guidance. Other organizations focus more on social support, including assisting people in finding employment or accessing social services.

    Others, such as soup kitchens and shelters, offer drop-in services. Becoming aware of the resources in your area and the type of services they offer can help you determine which might be the best fit for you. 

Facing financial or food-related insecurity can feel hopeless at times. In moments of need, however, help is available. Contact Saint Vincent de Paul of Santa Clara to talk to someone about your options. People in need can find local assistance and services depending on their location. 

How to Give Help

Most people believe in helping others and giving back to their communities. However, uncertainty about the best way to help or which organizations to partner with can be a barrier for some people. 

  • Donate goods or money. Find a charity or nonprofit in your area that helps provide housing and food for those in need, and consider donating food, gently used household goods, or cash. Be sure to contact the organization or check their website ahead of time to see if they have any guidelines or restrictions on the types of donations they can accept.  
  • Volunteer your time and energy. If you’re not in a position to donate food items or money, but you still want to make a difference, consider signing up to volunteer with a nonprofit that helps to house and feed families in need. Whether you end up helping with administrative duties or outreach efforts, a few hours of your time can make a huge difference.

While the growing number of people who are experiencing insecurity of some kind may be daunting, it’s important to remember that each of us has the power to make an impact by helping the people in our communities, whether directly or indirectly. Contact Saint Vincent de Paul of Santa Clara County to learn more about ways you can contribute.

Since 1948, the mission of The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul of Santa Clara County is to help struggling families and individuals—whether their struggle is with homelessness, maintaining housing, food insecurity, healthcare, utilities or other issues. In the spirit of its founder, SVdP treats all individuals with dignity, compassion, and love. To support their efforts at healing the Santa Clara County community, consider volunteering or donating.

Ways You Can Help Homeless People Now

If you’ve spent time walking around in any major city, you’ve probably noticed encampments beneath overpasses or clusters of makeshift cardboard shelters in city parks—and of course, the people in them. And if you thought to yourself, with sadness or concern, that their numbers seemed to be rising, you’d be correct. According to a US Department of Housing and Urban Development report, 2020 marked the fourth year in a row that homelessness increased across the nation. 

Nowhere is this problem more pronounced or visible than in California, which has the largest overall population and the largest homeless population of any state in the country. In January of 2020, the homeless population of California was estimated at 161,548 individuals

Of those, approximately 9,709 were recorded in Santa Clara County alone. Notably, this staggering number was reported before the COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread financial and employment crises for many people. Experts generally agree that things have only gotten worse since then—and will continue to do so if the problem isn’t addressed. 

Homelessness is a complex issue. A person experiencing a homeless crisis is just that: a person. And, like all people, they each have different stories and an array of reasons why they are experiencing a homeless crisis. Addiction, mental illness, catastrophic events, family violence, and loss of employment are among the many causes of homelessness. 

Taking Action

With local and state governments struggling to pass and implement policies to address these problems on a broad scale, many local nonprofits and private citizens have stepped up to support people in need. However, given the continued impact of the pandemic and the deep-rooted systemic causes of poverty and homelessness, these efforts are not enough. 

The question of how to help a homeless person is not always easy to answer. While some general suggestions are outlined below, the best place to begin is by remembering the humanity of each homeless person you encounter.

Fortunately, we all have the power to make a difference in our communities. Below are a few ideas for ways you can help people in need:

  • Donate gently used household goods. From clothing to kitchen utensils to cars, you’d be surprised at the number of items that can be useful to other people. Check with your local homeless shelter to see what they need or any items they can’t accept. You can also contact organizations that operate thrift stores that sell goods to finance services to help those in need and support rehabilitation and employment programs.

Some people have also taken to preparing kits for homeless people, including clean socks, snacks, or toiletries (among other things) and handing them out when they encounter someone in need on the street. If you’re comfortable doing so, consider asking the people you meet what they need most.

  • Donate money or time. Most nonprofits rely heavily on funds from donors and welcome financial contributions of any size. If you’re unable to donate cash, volunteer a few hours of your time. Contact homeless shelters or food banks in your area to see if they need volunteers.

  • Treat them like people. The Homeless are often shunned or experience discrimination—both of which can be incredibly dehumanizing. There’s also a dark history of violence against homeless people, which can cause them to resist assistance and interaction. Also, many people experiencing a homeless crisis suffer from mental health or substance abuse, both of which are highly stigmatized.

  • Support policy changes. While providing resources to people in need is essential, it’s also crucial to understand that this is simply treating the symptoms rather than addressing the problem. Addressing various social issues, including poverty, racism, substance abuse, and mental health care are the root of the problem. Educate yourself on the legislation in your city or state that supports affordable housing initiatives, and make sure you show up to vote in local elections. 

Since 1948, the mission of The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul of Santa Clara County is to help struggling families and individuals—whether their struggle is with homelessness, maintaining housing, food insecurity, healthcare, utilities or other issues.  People in need can find local assistance and services depending on their location. In the spirit of its founder, SVdP treats all individuals with dignity, compassion, and love. To support their efforts at healing the Santa Clara County community, consider volunteering or donating

As California’s eviction deadline nears, Bay Area housing officials turn to volunteers, nonprofits

Carol Lillig and the church ladies at St. Vincent de Paul in Morgan Hill have been helping struggling renters for a couple of decades — long before the pandemic throttled the work lives of landscapers, school bus drivers and child care workers.

On a recent weekday,  Lillig sat outside the church on a folding chair across from Xiomara Galicia, a single mom, who lost her retail job at the beginning of the pandemic. Galicia, 36, has four school-aged children, $123 in unpaid rent and an unemployment benefit about to end. She worried even a small blemish on her rent record would ruin future chances for housing. She needed help.

“To be behind is stressful, as you know” Lillig told her, and took photos of Galicia’s financial documents and uploaded them into an online relief application. Lillig told Galicia she should qualify to have her back rent covered and future rent paid for the next three months, under the complex formulas used by local and state agencies to reimburse landlords.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Galicia said. “I’m just really grateful.”

Lillig is part of an essential and growing piece of California’s knotty and faltering $5 billion rental relief effort — volunteers, part-time workers, community activists and do-gooders sitting side-by-side with delinquent renters, calling landlords and urging government agencies to send money ASAP.

About $500 million in federal funds is earmarked for the Bay Area, but how quickly it will be sent out and how many families it will help before the eviction ban ends this month remain looming questions.

Bay Area social agencies are leaning hard on smaller nonprofits and recruiting other institutions. Santa Clara County courts have begun promoting the local relief efforts, trying to bridge the trust gap between landlords and tenants. One of the East Bay’s largest community organizations expects to double the number of social agencies it’s using for outreach. The state also has more than tripled its number of caseworkers.

Yet frustration continues to mount. The California relief program, supplemented by an additional $2 billion in aid for unpaid utility bills, has been marred by glitchy application websites, confusing requirements for local and state programs, and some skepticism among landlords and tenants.

“Progress has been glacial,” said Santa Clara County eviction attorney Todd Rothbard. He has reached out to housing officials to facilitate aid payments to his landlord clients — hoping to get batches of applications done uniformly and efficiently — but efforts have stalled, he said.

“The myth is that landlords are frothing at the bit to evict,” Rothbard said. “In most cases, all they want to do is get paid.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium last month has spurred federal officials to find ways to lower barriers to getting relief to tenants and landlords. The CDC ban had little effect in California, where tenant protections are more comprehensive. The state’s eviction moratorium expires Sept. 30, although renters can receive limited protections by applying for state assistance through March 2022.

California housing officials have received requests for $1.4 billion in relief and paid out $426 million — roughly 30% — since the program launched in March through Aug. 31, according to state data.

In the Bay Area, San Mateo County families completed 4,063 applications for $57 million and have received about $22.3 million. Contra Costa County tenants filed 9,189 requests for $112 million and have received $39.3 million.

Large cities and counties were allowed to establish individual programs, and have primarily focused on the poorest renters most likely to become homeless. Oakland suspended its local program in May after being flooded with applications for its $13 million share. The city expects to reopen the program when new funds become available.

Jonathan Russell of Bay Area Community Services in Oakland said the agency has been able to prioritize families at high risk for homelessness through their case files, data and relationships with small, community nonprofits. It has doubled its network of local agencies in Oakland.

Partnering with neighborhood groups, he said, “has been a critical step in the process.”

Santa Clara County and San Jose have teamed up to distribute aid to residents making less than 30% of the community’s median income, or $49,700 for a family of four.

Chad Bojorquez of Destination: Home said the agency expects applications to surge this month. The organization, which is serving as a contractor helping administer the joint fund created by the county and city, originally hired temp workers to handle the casework. But housing officials learned the complicated program needed well-trained, experienced social workers.

Destination: Home has boosted its network of housing partners from 15 before the pandemic to a high of 70 local agencies, he said. The Santa Clara County program has received $50 million in requests from 4,700 households through August, and has paid out  $11.7 million, according to local data.

But some have found running aid programs too cumbersome. At least nine cities and counties, including Solano County, have folded local programs and turned administration over to the state. In Southern California, Los Angeles and Orange County have also switched to state administration after trying to manage distribution.

A spokesman for the state Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency said more cities have approached the department about turning over relief efforts.

In Morgan Hill, Lillig and a half-dozen women of the St. Vincent de Paul parish were tapped by housing officials a few months ago. They’ve helped about 140 families so far, meeting clients and landlords outside the church or in apartment complexes.

Church volunteers and a paid employee spend between three to five hours on each relief application — faster than when they first started, but still a labor-intensive job to gather pay stubs, leases, tax returns and verifications from landlords, among other details. Many needy clients work for the school district, or as landscapers, construction workers and cleaners.

Aid applications don’t run smoothly on mobile phones, often the sole source of internet for low income families. “Language is not so much a problem,” Lillig said, noting many volunteers speak Spanish. “It’s technology.”

The church volunteers have agreed to handle cases from another 60 families, and will start to receive small stipends for their work.

Several times, Lillig said, an applicant has cried when the application is filed, well before any public money is sent to the landlord. “They’re happy, but they’re relieved,” she said. “They’re relieved.”


Rental Assistance for extremely low income Santa Clara County residents

The Santa Clara County Homelessness Prevention System has rental assistance available for extremely low income residents who need help paying rent. To learn more and start an application [click here].

You can also view the flyers and get additional information at the links below.

Need Help?

Contact one of the many community partners.

SVDP Launches Covid-19 Crisis Appeal

Designed by jcomp / Freepik

The COVID crisis in Santa Clara County has had an impact on us all; social distancing, school shut-downs, working from home, small business closures, mandatory mask wearing, and missed medical appointments. While to some families, this is an inconvenience, to many it is a tragic turn of events.

For the people living on the fringes and struggling to pay the bills, this crisis is threatening the well-being of their families. With a population of 1.94M in Santa Clara County and a current poverty rate of 8.64%, that’s over 167,000 people already living in poverty, and with their employment going away they are struggling every day to make ends meet. Many have turned to St Vincent de Paul to get relief.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul of Santa Clara County (SVdP) was founded in 1946 with a mission to help anyone regardless of race, creed, religion, age, sex… we help all in need! We provide assistance with food, utilities, rent, healthcare costs, and transportation expenses. No act of charity is foreign to our Society.

The greatest expense a struggling family faces in Santa Clara County is rent, which was why the county placed a moratorium on evictions. However, although this moratorium prevents eviction, it does not relieve the financial obligation of the tenants, it simply delays it. As a result, many families are going deeper into debt in addition to becoming unemployed. Last year, SVdP provided an average of $45,000.00 a month in rental assistance. With the COVID crisis, we have seen the request for rental assistance increase to over $110,000.00 in June and over $115,000.00 in July. When the eviction moratorium is lifted and families must start paying back overdue rents, we anticipate a “tsumani” of requests for financial assistance. One major source of income for SVdP is through local Church collections and fundraising events. With the delays in opening Churches and social distancing preventing fundraising events, our income has been drastically reduced. We are reaching out to our donor based for help. Our goal is to rescue as many families as we can and prevent more homelessness in our County. Any and all contributions are greatly appreciated. 100% of all donations will go to helping families with housing. An anonymous donor has agreed to match all donations received by September 30 up to $25,000.

You can donate securely online by clicking the following link: Donate Now.

If you’d prefer to donate by check please mail your donation to:
Society of St. Vincent de Paul of SCC
P.O. Box 5579
San Jose, CA 95150

May God Bless You and Keep Your Family Safe!

BOMBAS Sock Donation distributed throughout SCC

SVdP of Santa Clara County provides assistance to those in need. We provide rental assistance, utility assistance, food, assistance with healthcare expenses, transportation costs, clothing, and now… SOCKS!

With a generous donation from Bombas Socks we were able to provide the needy with new socks! It’s amazing how much pleasure can be gained by a fresh new pair of socks! The generous donation was distributed to our conferences throughout the county who in turn delivered them to the needy of our community.

Thank you Bombas for your generosity and support for our community!


Barbara Wilkinson, Longtime Vincentian Passes

It is with heavy heart that we announce the passing of our own Barbara Wilkinson to eternal rest.

On the morning of Tuesday, July 21, 2020, Barbara passed away suddenly at Kaiser Hospital due to heart complications.

Barbara was born in Santa Rosa on May 16th, 1935 by devout Catholic parents, Lawrence and Rose Zuur. She
was educated by the Ursuline Nuns from Kindergarten until High School graduation in 1953. Barbara then
attended San Jose State and after receiving her teaching credential taught Elementary School at Soquel
Elementary in Santa Cruz. While living with some of her sorority sisters in Capitola, she met a handsome surfer,
Gordon Wilkinson. They married at the Carmel Mission in June of 1958. Barbara, full of energy, became the
Director of a Preschool in Marin County while also raising 4 children. The family moved eventually from
Marin County to Burlingame. After her children were grown, Barbara became interested in ministry work and
studied Theology at Rhema Bible Training College in Tulsa. After graduation, she applied to work for Our
Lady of Peace Shrine to begin her dream of working at that Catholic Church. She was hired by Pastor Msgr.
Sweeney as the Facilities Manager, not her dream job. However, it grew and over the next 30 years and she
handled several different church positions. Her favorite position was as the Wedding Coordinator. Barbara
retired in May of 2015 after her 80th birthday but continued to do charity work with the St. Vincent de
Paul Society Our Lady of Peace Chapter, which she helped found, as a Board Member until she passed unexpectedly on July 21st, 2020 at 85 years old. She will be greatly missed.

Donations to St. Vincent de Paul in Barbara’s name are most appreciated as she was still very active in assisting the needy people in Santa Clara County.

Open Wide Our Hearts: The enduring call to love

A pastoral letter against racism “Open Wide Our Hearts”, by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“But racism still profoundly affects our culture, and it has no place in the Christian heart. This evil causes great harm to its victims, and it corrupts the souls of those who harbor racist or prejudicial thoughts. The persistence of the evil of racism is why we are writing this letter now.”

[Click to read the letter]

Clifton L. Herndon, Longtime Vincentian Passes

SVDP mourns the passing of one of our longtime Vincentians. Clifton Herndon of our St Thomas Aquinas Conference in Palo Alto, and the mother of Anne Fillin, Conference President, left us on March 22, 2020. Our deepest condolences to her family. She will be greatly missed by SVDP and was an incredible woman. Please read about her remarkable life below.

Clifton L Herndon
Aug 25, 1926 – Mar 22, 2020
Palo Alto

Cliff was born in Los Angeles where she graduated from Catholic Girls High School. While attending UC Berkley, she met her husband John Herndon at a Newman Club dance. It was their love of God that brought them together, and it was this great love that became the theme for their long life together.

Cliff and John were married in San Francisco, moved to Santa Cruz as their family grew, and finally to Palo Alto were Cliff lived for over 60 years. Cliff devoted her life to raising her family of nine children and to teaching and serving those in need. She and her husband enjoyed sponsoring young initiates into their Catholic community, participating in leadership teams on Cursillo weekends and serving through the local St. Vincent de Paul Conference. They taught catechism at a local migrant farmworker camp, and moved the family to Mexico for a year in the early 70’s to work with communities there, a mission Cliff continued during her two trips to El Salvador with South Bay Sanctuary Covenant.

Cliff delighted in teaching ESL classes to immigrant students, and when the children were grown, enjoyed traveling with her husband and friends. Along with raising nine of their own, Cliff and her husband took in nine foster children over the years with various challenges and special needs. They firmly believed there was “always room for one more”.

Cliff was devoted to her family and always had a big smile and a kind word for everyone she met. She always made time to stop and smell the roses. She is survived by her children: Anne Fillin, John (Peggy), Felix (Valerie), Mary (Jeff), Louise Wells, Liz (Jere), Matt and Ben (Karin), along with ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She is preceded in death by her husband John R. Herndon, her son, Peter Mark Herndon Sr, and her sister, Anne LaForce Penn of San Francisco.

An intimate family memorial was held at Gate of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in Los Altos. A larger service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made be made to St Thomas Aquinas Parish, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, or South Bay Sanctuary Covenant.