Housing our Homeless in San Mateo: Tour Inside the Vendome
Join me for a 15-minute tour of the Vendome, San Mateo's homeless housing project with Steven Carey, Program Director of the Vendome and Robert Anderson, retired San Mateo Police Officer and founder of the Vendome.
Pioneering a "Housing First" Model
Officer Anderson spent 32 years in uniform in San Mateo, and he knew the names and stories of each of the 28 homeless folks who were living downtown. He spear-headed the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) to work with the Downtown Business Association, our Police Department, County, and local nonprofits. The HOT program connects homeless folks to temporary shelter, case management and treatment, but it did not address the root problem: lack of housing.
Citations, temporary incarcerations, trips to the hospital, and ping-ponging from shelters to the street were not solving the homeless situation. He brought together a coalition of community partners to create the Vendome, which is now a nationally recognized homeless project in our downtown. In 2007, the City of San Mateo embraced the idea and invested in the purchase of a dilapidated "flop house" to build the first permanent supportive housing project to serve chronically homeless San Mateans.
The Looming Surge
In response to COVID-19, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors enacted a moratorium on residential evictions, which keeps a roof over the head of residents who are rent-burdened and facing housing insecurity. When the moratorium is lifted, we anticipate a surge in the number of residents that will become homeless. This could reverse the years of progress that has been made to reduce the number of unsheltered individuals in our County since 2011.
A critical pandemic response effort to protect the health of our homeless population and broader community involved moving our most vulnerable unhoused populations into hotels and motels - coupled with case management and in some cases security. This could present a significant opportunity to purchase some of the struggling hotels and motels to convert into long-term homeless housing solutions - and bring together resources and regional partners to scale and replicate innovative housing models to serve our homeless population.