“7 years ago, I was completing a graduate degree at UC Berkeley. I worked hard, had great career prospects and a home that I owned; I was doing everything right. When the recession hit, my home went to the bank and shortly thereafter, I fell ill from a genetic condition that makes it difficult to walk and I could no longer work. I’m 59 now and for a person my age with a small pension, my lifestyle has fallen far below what could be considered “average”. I rent a room in a place I share with 2 other people. It’s month to month with no contract so there’s a lot of instability. I rarely have money for anything after rent, I certainly can’t afford to shop at grocery stores, and the food provided in the brown bag programs is a lot of over-ripe produce and expired items, and the meals provided by community centers are so unhealthy. I rely on transit now too. Walking to stops, waiting for long stretches of time to be picked up, and not always having a way home is stressful and hard on my body. Sometimes I just don’t bother going to appointments, it’s too painful. I just try to take care of myself and I try to keep a positive attitude, but it’s hard. I’m so grateful for my little dog; I’ve had her since before I lost everything. Animals can make you feel so much better. You know, San Mateo County is a beautiful, affluent place; it’s where I want to be. I don’t want to risk the kinds of things that could happen to me in more impoverished areas. I worked so hard but now I have to do what I never would have, compromise what I eat and where I live. I feel like I don’t belong here because I can’t afford it, but what happened to me could happen to anyone. There are a lot of resources in this county and we have a chance now to create strong communities that come together on issues like food, transit and housing so that no one feels like they don’t belong.“
- Louisa*, Resident of San Mateo County (*Pseudonym)
“At JobTrain, we support those who are trying to study, work and live in San Mateo County. Housing is a common issue. For example, some folks in our Redwood City, East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park communities have been struggling to pay increasingly higher rents for crowded, unsafe living quarters, and now many homes in these areas are being demolished. Clearly we want folks to have safe dwellings, but new buildings rarely serve those living on lower incomes and when they do, available spots just can’t keep up with demand. Low-income families, students and service workers are being forced to move away from our county and in some cases, the Bay Area. A major problem is they’re working two jobs in order to make their rent, so they don’t qualify for food stamps because they’re over the federal income cutoff. Many people have children in school and they don’t want to displace their children so they’re trying their hardest to stay in the Bay Area and not become homeless. Unfortunately, the most common sacrifice they make, by far, is food. I’m happy there are places like Second Harvest Food Bank, but we have to do more because the cost of living in our county seems to only be going up.”
- JobTrain Representative
Taking on the challenges that a high cost of living brings to people in our county will take a concerted effort, but it is necessary to effectively address issues like inadequate housing, food and transit, while also addressing the myriad factors that add quality to our lives. Whether you’re someone facing challenges or someone who’s concerned and looking for a place to start in this effort, below is a list of just some of the organizations that are trying to make a difference right now.
NEED HELP NOW? San Mateo County’s directory of community services is available at SMC-Connect.org.
- Lifemoves offers effective and intensive programs aiming to end the cycle of homelessness for families and individuals in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.
- Peninsula Family Service serves nearly 10,000 individuals in the region, providing them the tools and resources they need to overcome barriers to achieving a life of opportunity, financial stability, and wellness.
- Housing Leadership Council works with communities and their leaders to produce and preserve quality affordable homes.
- Heart of San Mateo County aims to meet critical housing needs in the county through public and private fundraising toward more affordable housing opportunities.
- Puente de la Costa Sur collaborates with the county, other agencies, and nonprofits to ensure access to health services for coastal residents, including assistance with enrollment in safety net services, a coastal clinic, field nurse, fitness classes, and counseling.
- JobTrain is committed to improving the lives of people in our community by offering assessments, attitude and job skills training, and high potential career placements.
- Samaritan House is dedicated to providing food, access to shelter, healthcare, and a broad range of supportive service to those in need, including the missing middle – those who earn a middle income and struggle to afford medical and housing expenses.
- Second Harvest Food Bank distributes up to one million pounds of food each week to low-income people in need, through a network of 300 nonprofit partners at 905 sites.
- Children’s Health Council strives to remove social, emotional and learning barriers for kids and families, regardless of language, location or ability to pay, to help children and teens become resilient, happy and successful at home, at school and in life.
- Jewish Family and Children Services serves people of all faiths and backgrounds with a comprehensive set of over 40 programs including home care for seniors, therapy for children, youth volunteer programs, services for people with disabilities, and much more.
- Center for Dental Health and mobile dental outreach program organized by the Peninsula Health Care District provides dental care for residents who are unable to secure commercial dental care.
- Sequoia Healthcare District’s School Wellness Projects fund programs in the eight school districts in its boundaries.
- Caminar for Mental Health operates a variety of programs for people with mental health disabilities.
- StarVista is a nonprofit counseling provider specializing in crisis intervention, substance abuse treatment, and suicide prevention.