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2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit

HomeFirst Services of Santa Clara County

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Homeless & Housing, Homeless Shelters, Housing & Shelter, Human Services, Temporary Housing

Mission: Agency Mission and Vision: HomeFirst confronts homelessness by cultivating people’s potential to get housed and stay housed. HomeFirst envisions a community where everyone has a home. We believe in the power of community and the support that it brings. We believe in the strength of the people we serve. And we believe that there will be an end to homelessness. HomeFirst is about more than just shelter. Through award winning housing programs and effective support services, HomeFirst improves the quality of life in our community for people in need by helping them eliminate barriers to permanent housing and stability.

Target demographics: Homeless single adults, families, youth, seniors, and veterans

Direct beneficiaries per year: Each year, HomeFirst serves over 5,000 people in the County of Santa Clara.

Geographic areas served: San Jose, Santa Clara, San Martin, Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Gilroy

Programs: Boccardo Reception Center (BRC): The BRC is the is the largest homeless service center in Santa Clara County, serving 250 adults nightly. It operates year-round, 24 hours a day, providing shelter and transitional housing as well as a wide array of critical services. Veterans Services: At the BRC, we offer the most comprehensive services for homeless veterans in the County, including mental health counseling, employment placement, emergency shelter, transitional housing, and support for families of veterans who are at risk of homelessness. Sunnyvale Shelter: Sunnyvale Family Shelter is open year-round and serves up to 140 individuals and families nightly. The shelter operates on a referral basis, and all guests can receive a variety of case management and support services. Bridge Housing Communities (BHC): HomeFirst’s BHC Program provides safe and secure interim housing to eligible individuals enrolled in Santa Clara County and City of San Jose Rapid Rehousing Programs. Participants receive an array of on-site supportive services and access to resources needed to build a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. Outreach: We have the largest outreach program for people living on the streets and in encampments in San Jose. Each day, our team distributes necessary supplies and information to those who are unsheltered within the city of San Jose and helps to resolve issues that prevent individuals from getting housed. Cold Weather Shelter Program (CWSP): HomeFirst has operated Santa Clara County's CWSP for nearly three decades. Shelters are in Mountain View and Gilroy and open from December to April each year. Individuals can self-refer. In partnership with the City of San Jose, we are the service provider for two Overnight Warming Locations (OWLs) that operate throughout Winter that offers emergency assistance to those who do not have shelter placement. Family Living Centers: At the Sobrato Family Living Center in Santa Clara and the Boccardo Family Living Center in San Martin, we provide housing services and more for families across the county. We operate the Sobrato House Youth Center for foster youth in downtown San Jose and support youth living in the community who have aged out of the foster care system. ​

Community Stories

22 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 2

Working first-hand with HomeFirst due to covid, I am shocked to say that the staff do not respect the clients even though their job is to work with them based on their needs. They have very strict rules-and of course rules are needed to maintain structure in any organization. Except they have certain times in the day when clients aren't allowed to be given food? No one should ever be denied food. Especially from a place that has the resources to provide them with such. As well as the way staff members talk to clients. They show little to no respect to them and the way they speak about them to each other is quite disturbing. I've witnessed staff joke about clients mental breakdowns. It's very unfortunate that the staff aren't competent to do their job. Which is not only giving basic respect but providing a safe space for these clients and helping them with their needs.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I took a tour of a HomeFirst shelter in 2019 and truly wish we had a place like this to care for our homeless population in Sacramento! The facilities are clean and organized. Staff are friendly and supportive. It seems HomeFirst has done some out-of-the-box thinking to serve their guests too. One example is the addition of on-site pet kennels. A dog can be the only loving support an unhoused person has. Many refuse shelter services because they do not want to leave their beloved pets behind. The kennels help homeless people leave their pet in a safe place while they use the facilities and services needed. This has allowed more to accept services. I really appreciate this approach!
It’s important to recognize that the homeless population is diverse and very difficult to serve. Many are drug addicted or have emotional and mental problems. They don’t do well with “following the rules” and can fight against basic shelter guidelines that keep everyone safe and supported. I noticed staff being very clear, yet kind about what is acceptable in the shelter. Pushback from some of the shelter visitors is probably to be expected. The staff seems to handle it with grace and respect. The problems outside the shelter seem to be normal for any type of shelter I’ve seen in a city. Those problems are normally outside the scope of shelters. As in my own city, it’s city leaders and their law enforcement objectives that affect the surrounding community.
As part of a group of neighborhood advocates in Sacramento, I am working to find solutions to homeless on our streets. I have contacted my city leaders and told them to consider HomeFirst as it is the type of well-run shelter we need here!

1

Client Served

Rating: 1

In the beginning it seemed like a place that would genuinely help those who are homeless find some type of permanent housing and/or employment. A couple of employment flyers posted on a corkboard and a referral to get on a waiting list for some sort of housing which you sign up for during intake. Outside of that they don't help you with absolutely ANYTHING! I asked the Director about obtaining a case manager ( which is something they are supposed to provide as per there webpage @homefirst.com) and the lady looked at me like I was asking for too much, then conveyed that they're ONLY provided to those who really need a case manager. I would think everyone in the facility would fit that criteria, obviously not. Some of the staff are disrespectful towards the clients and even demeaning and joke about their appearances, hygiene or other other things. Most of all they treat people like inmates and not people who are in need of help. Thievery and drug use is perpetuated and done with impunity. I heard from a police officer who was there taking a report cause someone's bike was stolen that she has been there "several" before and the staff always say that the security cameras outside/inside don't work. I've seen and heard them call out people (before and after what I heard from the officer), about things they weren't supposed to be doing. My question is why would they police lie & most of all why would the staff say that as well? Nothing about this place gives you any hope about your future after @Homefirst. The Director is more like a warden trying to run a prison. She cares NOTHING about the clients well being and most of the time her solution is just putting people out. If you go above her head cause she blatantly disregards what they're actaully supposed to be doing, and will get retaliatory and look for things to put you out for. Now its gotten worse and feels like your really an inmate and the staff are correctional officers. Its a shame how people how places like this can use peoples disadvantages in life and use it against them and treat them like they don't matter. Now the people who are doing all stealing seem to be the people who get to stay there the longest. I've seen people trying to do right and things that are productive get put out for menial things. Like I said the drugs and stealing unutterably perpetuated and done with impunity. Wait ,what hows that supposed to help and how does that curb anything that's said on the attached photo. Absolutely non of the things mentioned are actually being done, period! Don't come here unless you want to to be miss treated, end up on or back on drugs and living on the tracks around the corner or elsewhere. The food and freedom are compensated for your self-esteem, ambitions to do/be better and your dignity. Last but not least , it is a bedbug hotel. Enjoy the misery

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My non profit organization has been partnered with HomeFirst services to cook and serve meal to their clients. I must appreciate their support in providing required infrastructure for us to cook and serve smoothly. From their CEO to Volunteer co-ordinator to staff at different shelters play a vital role in our mission. Without their support we would not be able to carry out meal service. I am glad say HomeFist is our partner in serving the needy.

4 Dd13345

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have met with and worked alongside the executive team and board members and have been extremely impressed with their professionalism and level of commitment. They are dedicated to serving our most marginalized homeless citizens with dignity and respect. The organization and culture is operated within a structure of compliance and ethics and is managed with efficacy and integrity.

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I worked with the HomeFirst executive team and select board members on a high-level project, and was very impressed with the team. Out of 30 NPOs in Santa Clara County that work with the homeless, HomeFirst is one of the very few that serves the chronically homeless. HomeFirst has the largest outreach team, the largest emergency shelters and is the go-to resource when the County needs small-scale emergency shelter for displaced residents (e.g., after a fire). The executive team is smart and personally committed to serving the hardest cases for as long as there is a need. I'm grateful that we have a resource like HomeFirst in our community.

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I had a wonderful experience working with Home First at their fantastic Home Sweet Home event. I recognize the good work they are doing for the community and would gladly collaborate with the organization in the future.

2

Donor

Rating: 5

I've became a donor for this organization because what they do is so important for helping the homeless in Santa Clara Valley. I will continue to support them because they do a great job serving those in real need.

2

Donor

Rating: 5

I attended the Home First Auction in April, and was so moved by the stories that people told. It is obvious that Home First is making a difference in peoples lives, and the success stories verify that. The staff and Board seem to intent on actually making a true difference, and not just doing so for appearances sake. I'm happy to support Home First.

3

Donor

Rating: 5

Beginning in February of 2016, I have had many opportunities to interact with HomeFirst staff and witness first-hand their operations throughout Santa Clara Count. The mission they are on and the quality of the job they're doing is nothing short of spectacular. They have many roadblocks in their way, and are fighting an uphill battle against many odds in a daunting task to provide needed life basics to a large segment of the local population. The dedication by all the staff, employees, volunteers, donors, clients and participating local charities is truly amazing and all the hard work is making a difference in the lives of many real people with real names, real faces and real hardships even within the midst of the affluence that is Silicon Valley. My hat's off to HomeFirst, its leaders, and its Board members who are taking on a gargantuan problem and doing a commendable job of helping our fellow human beings. Good luck in the future and Cheers! to all you're doing now, and the accomplishments to come down the road! QR

3

Board Member

Rating: 5

HomeFirst is a pioneer in addressing homelessness through shelter services, transitional housing and supportive services. It's been around approximately 35 years, well before the current focus on homelessness in media and government. It's one of the most experienced and largest in Santa Clara county, and has a long track record of accomplishment.

3 David356

Board Member

Rating: 5

The HomeFirst team is doing an incredible job tackling very difficult challenges. They are making a huge difference in the lives of people who have found themselves in difficult circumstances. Seeing people get shelter, then transitional housing and eventually a home of their own is immensely rewarding. And I have been very impressed with the professionalism and caring of everyone involved.

4

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I've worked for and with HomeFirst for many years and am most grateful for the first class work they do on behalf of the poorest folks in our community. Their shelters are top notch and their customer service is noteworthy. Thanks!!!!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been volunteering with HomeFirst for 6 years and have served on its Board for five. I am constantly inspired by the dedicated staff who care so passionately about their mission to end homelessness. I was introduced to HomeFirst while our son attended Bellarmine, where students learn about homelessness first-hand through an "urban plunge" immersion experience with HomeFirst (then known as EHC LifeBuilders). Everyone deserves a safe place to call home; many of our clients just need a second chance and a helping hand. Each week, I work with other volunteers to sort through the in-kind donations we receive: making up move-in kits for clients who are moving into permanent housing, and sorting linens that are used in our emergency shelters. It's a very rewarding way to contribute to the health of our community.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering at EHC since 2001 off and on. I like the friendly staff at EHC and it really feels great to win the applause of the residents after the meal. Especially when residents ask for seconds of any item, that is when we know how much they appreciate the food we cook. I wish all the best to EHC and pray that it would be successful in its mission of removal of homelessness.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

EHC Lifebuilders offers its resident a safe and encouraging environment. This helps the residents get back on their feet. I have found staff to be encouraging and deal with issues with tough love. Facility with computers offers residents an environment to learn technology.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been struck by the positive nature and cheerfulness of the staff in the process of providing a key service that could be often challenging.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 4

I’ve worked closely with EHC LifeBuilders over the past year and know first hand how important their services are to our community. During these dire economic times and with the desire for affordable housing beyond the reach of too many county residents, EHC LifeBuilders provides comprehensive and dignified services to those who need it most in our community.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

EHC Lifebuilders serves as an essential and vital resource in Santa Clara county to address the community challenge of homelessness. I have been fortunate enough to serve as a volunteer in EHC since 1995. I have been touched by the deep caring and compassion evident in the staff members and their sincere appreciation for the efforts of the volunteers.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

My experience with EHC has been nothing but postive. Here at EHC I have been able to get my life back inorder by providing me with a stable home for my children and I. I also have been able to get my legal issues taken care of. They have helped me with the paperwork so that my child support be modified, and most of all my career. Today I am employeed by using the resources they provided of me as a client. I am also a full-time student at San Jose City College for my AA degree in alcohol and drugs studies. I am so grateful to EHC, because of the concerns and compassion for me has made a difference in my life. If it wasn't for the workers who helped me through the tough times and challenges that I had to overcome and experience in my life, I would not have almost 4years clean and sober. I truely believe this agnecy was placed in my life to save me. I am in debt to this organization, and I hope this agency will be around for along time, because I am sure they are able to help me with many other things. I can go on and on about how wonderful this agency has been to me.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have had the opportunity of volunteering @ EHC for a few years. You get to learn what "they dont teach you @ Harvard" - relating to fellow human beings. No therapy or medicine can destress and give you the joy that a few hours of volunteering can give you. The staff @ EHC are always helpful, respectful of every ones yearning to serve and give something back to the community.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I've volunteered and contributed to EHCLifebuilders for six years. During that time I have been impressed with the volume of people that are helped by this organization and the variety of services that are provided. They are an important contributor to services for the homeless in Santa Clara County (CA). One terrific think about EHC is that if anything is not as it should be,and this is rare, if reported it will be immediately delt with. An example of this is that a few monthes ago I complained that while I was regularly communicated with by the other homeless service providers, I felt EHC Lifebuilders was a little weal in this area and that I wondered what was happening with certain programs. A few months later I have received a professionally-done newsletter, gotten regular group email reports and rapid email responses to whatever I'm concerned with knowing - that is awesome! Also representatives from this agency are at all the important meetings in town concerned with poverty issues - they are not only good at what they do, but they are team players in the fight to improve the situation for people in need.