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Our Housing First approach to homelessness in the Bay Area

In the California Bay Area, it’s estimated that there are more than 35,000 people who are homeless, making it the third largest region for homelessness in the country. The pandemic has only exacerbated this crisis. 

Last year, we made a $1 billion commitment to accelerate the production of affordable housing in the Bay Area, and Google.org made a pledge to grant $50 million to community organizations working on the front lines. Google.org has since granted $7.75 million to nonprofits, to support more than 33,000 people with services like mental health care, food distribution and job training, and to house 9,000 of those individuals over the span of four years. 


We know nonprofits need more support to keep fighting this growing crisis. So today we’re announcing $4 million in new grants to local organizations that are helping and solving homelessness for families, youth and vulnerable communities: Larkin Street Youth Services, Abode Services and Sunnyvale Community Services (SCS)

A Housing First approach

Going back to 2009, Google.org has given more than $24 million in grants to nonprofits that provide homeless services. During this time we've learned that the best way to help the homeless community is with a “Housing First” approach.

Historically, in order to access housing, people have been required to meet a certain criteria, including participating in programs like job training or drug rehab, before they were able to qualify for housing. This can be difficult for an individual living on the street, which can mean that they forgo programs that could help them. With a Housing First approach, people are provided with a stable place to live first—whether it’s emergency, short-term and long-term housing. Then, they receive other support such as mental health care, drug rehab, food assistance, or job training programs. Hamilton Families, a Google.org grantee that uses this support model, has seen 87 percent of program participants stay housed once their program support ends.

Two of today’s grantees, Larkin Street and Abode Services, have had particular success with this approach. This has been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, given the added risk of contracting the virus among people who are on the streets or in homelessness encampments. For example, Larkin Street and their partners secured a hotel in San Francisco to house homeless youth who have been deprioritized from housing waitlists.  

With Google’s broader commitment to increasing the stock of affordable housing in the Bay Area, and more funding for nonprofits who follow the Housing First model, we’re hopeful we can be part of the solution. 

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