Silicon Valley Pain Index Inspires Guaranteed Income Program for Unhoused Students in Santa Clara County

The Silicon Valley Pain Index, a meta-analysis crafted by San José State University’s Human Rights Institute that revealed Santa Clara County’s growing racial and wealth disparities along with a troubling trend of housing and food insecurity among young adults, inspired a pilot program to serve unhoused students in Santa Clara County that was led by Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg and California State Senator Dave Cortese.


As stated in their agenda item, this program will support unhoused high school seniors make their transition to two- or four-year colleges, trade schools, apprenticeship programs, or work opportunities through “no-strings-attached” monthly payments of about $1,000. This program’s guaranteed income framework was proposed in Senator Dave Cortese’s SB 1341, the California Success, Opportunity, and Academic Resilience (CalSOAR) Guaranteed Income Program, a bill that is now moving forward as a countywide pilot. A report on the framework of the program will return to the Board of Supervisors in November of this year.


There are approximately 2500 students in Santa Clara County that are experiencing homelessness.


Senator Cortese and Supervisor Ellenberg reflected on how the Pain Index and work of the Human Rights Institute inspired the first-of-its-kind program.


Senator Cortese says, “The Pain Index made clear that systemic change is needed to truly close our generational wealth gap that continues the cycle of poverty, and it was this very report that led to an historic proposal to support Santa Clara County’s unhoused students. We need new tools to address our growing social divides that have only worsened during the pandemic, and I am grateful to the authors of the Pain Index, Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton and Dr. William Armaline, for illuminating these issues for so many and for influencing and informing public policies to affect change.”


The statistics from the Silicon Valley Pain Index continues to remind us that many of our residents – our neighbors - are deeply struggling.” said Santa Clara County Supervisor and Board Vice President Susan Ellenberg. “Universal basic income for high school seniors who are experiencing homelessness is a small investment that pays large dividends. Navigating the life transition that follows high school is difficult to manage in the most well supported circumstances; for these students it may mean the difference between a path forward or a rootless future. When these students thrive, our entire community benefits.” 


Dr. Scott Myers Lipton & Dr. William Armaline of The Human Rights institute say, “The SJSU Human Rights Institute exists to inform policy and practice according to the highest standards of international human rights law.  The Silicon Valley Pain Index is an annual report on human rights conditions in Santa Clara County meant to inspire collaborative solutions to our most pressing social problems.  To wit, we were thrilled to work with Sen. Cortese on the design of the CalSOAR Bill (SB1341) following the 2021 SVPI, and will now assist Supervisor Ellenberg and the Board in promoting the Santa Clara County pilot program that can save thousands of our young adults from homelessness and food insecurity.


Santa Clara County has previously launched basic income programs. In 2020, Senator Cortese led the creation of Santa Clara County’s universal basic income program to serve transition age foster youth.