The homeless statistics never cease to astound. Each night, Bill Wilson Center (BWC), with headquarters in Santa Clara, houses over 900 homeless youth.
During one year, 1 in 10 young adults ages 18 to 25, and 1 in 30 adolescents between 13 and 17, experienced homelessness, according to a 2017 national study from the University of Chicago. They are couch surfing with acquaintances, sleeping on the streets, living in cars, staying in shelters. Whatever the reasons, they are homeless and in harm’s way.
Marking National Homeless and Runaway Prevention month in November, Bill Wilson Center again sponsored a Green Light Rally & Walk to raise awareness of the invisible homeless population of youth and young adults in Santa Clara County, where over 10,000 students are without permanent housing.
The November 10 walk began with remarks at San Jose’s City Hall and Rotunda by Bill Wilson Center CEO Sparky Harlan, San Jose City Council Members Matt Mahan and David Cohen and BWC Board Member and Director of San Jose City College’s Student Services Blake Balajadia.
“For the past four decades as the CEO of Bill Wilson Center, I’ve been privileged to have an incredible staff, who constantly work to help people learn the skills to thrive and to build connections,” said Harlan, who is retiring in 2023 after serving since 1983.
She pointed out that BWC continues to expand to better meet the needs of homeless youth.
“Over the past two years, we have increased services, adding more beds and providing rental assistance to hundreds of families and youth at risk of losing housing,” said Harlan.
After the rally, 43 homeless advocates wearing green neon LED lights and carrying signs walked a mile through downtown to the BWC Drop-In Center enclave at 693 S. 2nd Street. Each year, hundreds of homeless street youth begin their journey off the streets here, moving into transitional housing and towards independence and stability.
Bill Wilson Center is a nonprofit, community-based organization serving over 6,000 clients in Santa Clara County annually. More than 30,000 homeless are assisted annually through its Street Outreach programs. Far more than offering temporary shelter for youth and families, BWC looks to their future, connecting clients with counseling, education, employment and advocacy
BWC teamed with the City of San Jose, the Santa Clara County Housing Authority, and Jamboree Housing Corporation to purchase and renovate—at a cost of $30.4 million—the 43-unit Pavilion Inn in San Jose. With an anticipated opening of summer 2023, it will house transitional-age youth who must exit foster care at 18.
“The Pavilion Inn will fill a critical gap in the housing continuum,” said Harlan. “By combining an array of supportive services with housing, we will create a pathway to long-term independence for the former foster youth and families served.”
BWC took over the homeless shelter hotline, (408) 385-2400, now called Here4You, from Santa Clara County this past fall. It handles an average of 300-plus calls each day, working to place individuals and families in available housing.
If you or someone you know needs BWC’s services, call (408) 243-0222. The BWC Crisis Line is (408) 850-6125.