The Homeless Crisis Response System consists of a continuum of services designed to identify individuals and families experiencing homelessness, meet their immediate needs for shelter and services, and ultimately re-house each household. The County partners with community-based service providers to provide these services countywide. Continue reading to learn more about these services. 

system overview
Homelessness Prevention

The County has continued to support the Core Service Agencies’ emergency financial assistance programs to support housing stability and prevent homelessness among community members who are experiences challenges in maintaining their housing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a large uptick in the number of households needing support to pay their rent. As the pandemic eases, emergency financial assistance programs will continue to be critical to helping community members maintain housing and avoid entering homelessness whenever possible.

Entry Points
Outreach and Engagement

To end homelessness requires a concerted effort to identify and engage people who are unsheltered, particularly those living in encampments, vehicles, and other places not meant for people to live. Over the past five years, the County has invested in a re-design and expansion of countywide mobile outreach efforts to expand geographic coverage and hours of operation, as well as to provide more robust case management.

Coordinated Entry and Diversion

People who are experiencing homelessness enter the homeless crisis response system through a coordinated entry and assessment process (accessed via the Core Service Agencies) and are connected to appropriate services to help connect them to housing, based on their individual situation and available resources. Continue reading to learn more about resources accessed through Coordinated Entry.

Interim Solutions
Shelter/Interim Housing

Shelter is a critical element of the overall response to homelessness – offering people a safe place to stay where they can address their immediate needs and receive housing-focused case management to develop a plan to identify and move into permanent housing. Over the past several years, the County has significantly expanded shelter for adults, including the addition of new beds at congregate shelter programs in East Palo Alto, Redwood City, South San Francisco, and new non-congregate shelters in Half Moon Bay, Redwood City, and San Mateo in former motel structures. A new Navigation Center in Redwood City is slated to be completed by the end of 2022. The County has also worked intensively with the shelter provider agencies to improve the effectiveness of shelter services in helping residents exit to permanent housing destinations, including through expanded training, improved connections to housing resources, and enhancements to housing-focused case management and housing support services at shelters.

Safe Parking Programs

Safe Parking Programs are sites that support households living in vehicles with a safe place to park their vehicle and receive services for connecting them to permanent housing solutions. There are three Safe Parking Programs in San Mateo County, supported by the cities in which they are located.

Housing Programs

While interim housing provides people with a short-term place to stay where they can be safe and access needed services, permanent housing solutions are needed for people to truly end their experience of homelessness. These subsidy programs are one critical resource in helping our community house people who are experiencing homelessness. These programs provide subsidies to help cover a portion of the rent and also provide supportive services like case management. Once a household is referred to and enrolled in the program, they enter the “housing search” phase, during which they seek appropriate housing with the support of program staff, for example, by applying to available apartments, etc. Once they enter into a lease and move in, the household has exited homelessness to housing.

Rapid Rehousing

Rapid rehousing (RRH) programs provide medium-term rental subsidies, intensive housing location services, and case management services to help households secure and sustain housing. The County has expanded its inventory of rapid rehousing using federal, state and local funding in order to return households to housing quickly.

Housing Location Services

In 2016, the County partnered with the Housing Authority of San Mateo County and a non-profit provider to launch a Housing Locator program. Housing locators help identified households who have received a housing voucher with their housing search process, which includes identifying units, completing applications, and negotiating with landlords. This service has been particularly critical for people who are unsheltered and those for whom conducting a housing search is particularly difficult.

Supportive Housing Vouchers

Supportive housing vouchers accessed through the Homeless Crisis Response System provide long-term housing subsidies combined with intensive services to households with the highest needs, particularly people who have significant disabilities. Vouchers may be site-based, meaning associated with a building with subsidized housing, or tenant-based, for use in the general housing market. The inventory of supportive housing has been steadily growing, driven primarily by the availability of a variety of federal funding sources leveraged through the County Housing Authority.

How You Can Help

For any property manager/landlord who is interested in learning more about renting an apartment, house, or room to someone in one of these programs who is searching for housing, please contact the San Mateo County Department of Housing ( to learn more about landlord incentive programs and other information.

Additional Resource: Affordable Housing Programs

Through the Department of Housing, the County supports various affordable housing programs. While the entry point for affordable housing is not the Homeless Crisis Response System, affordable housing is a key resource helping to end homelessness in our community. To learn more about Affordable Housing resources, check out the Department of Housing website.