What is unsheltered homelessness?
Individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness reside outdoors or other places not meant for human habitation (e.g., an unheated garage). Interventions for people living unsheltered focus on meeting individuals’ basic needs and connecting them to housing resources.
What is the need for unsheltered service interventions in the Bay Area?
The growing increase of homelessness across the Bay Area is mostly driven by an increase in unsheltered homelessness. While the incidence of sheltered homelessness has remained fairly stable, the whole region has seen a sharp incline in unsheltered homeless, with some of the nine Bay Area counties seeing a sharper increase than others.
Like other communities across the state, the Bay Area counties have undertaken impactful housing-first approaches to intervene once people become homeless to help them move more quickly to retain stable housing.
What are the bright spots in the Bay Area’s unsheltered homelessness interventions?
The following are a selection of impactful intervention strategies being used in the Bay Area to meet the basic needs and provide connections to housing for individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
Drop-in centers offer several co-located services targeting the needs of unsheltered individuals, as well as providing a safe space for homeless individuals to be during daylight hours. They bring together multiple regional partners to coordinate wrap-around services that facilitate households in exiting homelessness.
Drop-in centers often integrate peer services staffed by people with lived experience of homelessness, wellness activities and engagement, legal/criminal justice system diversion, and pilot programs that take advantage of novel partnership opportunities and volunteer time in a coordinated and impactful way. The Bill Wilson Center for Youth (in Santa Clara County), offers peer-led supportive services.
Santa Clara County
The Bill Wilson Center for Youth in Santa Clara County offers various supportive services (including housing referrals) and assistance with everyday needs for youth.
The Living Room in Sonoma County offers drop-in day services during the week to women and children experiencing homelessness or at-risk of homelessness.
The South Napa Day Center is a year-round Housing First shelter in the City of Napa that also operates a Day Center providing services including, showers, mail delivery, laundry, lunch, a medical clinic, social services, and housing navigation.
Multi-disciplinary Street Outreach
Multi-disciplinary street outreach teams focus on meeting the diverse needs of unsheltered individuals using teams with multiple areas of expertise (e.g., basic needs, housing, behavioral health).
San Mateo County
LifeMoves’ Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) in San Mateo County meets with unsheltered clients wherever they are to provide services in the field. The HOT team staff canvasses local streets and known encampments in San Mateo to assist unsheltered individuals as needed.
Community Action of Marin’s Community Alternative Response (CARE) homeless outreach teams, support people experiencing homelessness throughout Marin County. The multi-disciplinary team connects to people by performing wellness checks on site, bringing them food, socks and other supplies, and transports them to shelters, hospitals, and detox centers.
Housing-Focused Street Medicine
Housing-orientated street medicine brings physical and mental health care services directly to individuals unsheltered who are living and sleeping on the streets, through mobile vans, walking outreach teams, and outdoor clinics, along with other housing-oriented services.
The City of Oakland’s Oakland STOMP: Street Team Outreach Medical Program through Roots Community Health Center, provides medical care to homeless individuals throughout the city of Oakland, along with outreach, benefits enrollment, and connections to other services and treatment.
Housing-focused Encampment Resolution
Housing-focused encampment resolution provides targeted housing support to residents of specific encampment in an effort to decrease the impact of or resolve the encampment.
The City of Santa Rosa has a Homeless Encampment Assistance Pilot (HEAP), a multi-disciplinary outreach team with a housing-focused approach to encampment resolution.
San Francisco County
The City and County of San Francisco’s SF Homeless Outreach Team (SFHOT) provides regular outreach and engagement to the most vulnerable individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness by offering them appropriate and available resources. SFHOT outreaches to individuals, including people living in large encampments, and connects them to services and health care, assesses them for housing, and offers placement into available shelter programs.
Flexible Funding, Coordination and Training
Flexible funding, coordination, and trainings can be used to build capacity of community-based groups (e.g., faith-based or volunteer groups) to provide support to individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness. These groups can also be invaluable partners in helping unsheltered individuals transition into shelter or housing if they are well supported.
Alameda County’s Housing Provider Incubator Fund provides operational funding to support small organizations that are already providing shelter, outreach, and/or other direct services to unsheltered homeless residents of Alameda County. In 2020, the Housing Provider Incubator Fund awarded up to $800,000 across a 12-to-24-month contract period.
Bay Area Region
The Homebase’s Bay Area Unsheltered Action Lab is a free training opportunity for volunteer groups in the Bay Area focused on building administrative capacity and building collective knowledge about non-traditional approaches to serving individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness. In 2021, the Action Lab included groups from communities.