Mountain View ramps up efforts to help its homeless amid virus outbreak

Mountain View leaders are stepping up in a big way to help the city’s homeless.

Local police, the faith community and others are ramping up efforts to provide basic needs as an increasing number of residents find themselves out of work in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and tanking economy. Mountain View officials counted more than 400 homeless or unstably housed residents, most of them vehicle dwellers, even before the pandemic began. 

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
A portable restroom and handwashing station are now available at the Mountain View Transit Center.

“Since the pandemic, lots of people have lost jobs,” said Sgt. Wahed (Wally) Magee, who has been delivering hygiene kits with supplies such as shampoo, soap, tissue, shaving razors and body wash to residents in need. “There’s a new level of panic and desperation – people are literally running toward us for the kits.”

Unlike cities such as Los Angeles, where homeless populations are out in the open, Magee said most of the city’s “homeless” are in RVs or other vehicles, limiting risk of outbreaks of the virus.

“Overall, our homeless population is doing good (sheltering in place),” he said. “They’re not out and about.”

Still, in recognizing the problem of unsanitary conditions, city leaders announced last week they had added 13 portable restrooms and 18 handwashing stations around Mountain View.

 Nonprofits offer help to residents in distress
 Mountain View's #TogetherMV iniative aims to identify need 
Scammer targets vulnerable residents during the virus crisis

“These are cleaned every day to ensure that those who use them are staying healthy while we all work to slow the spread of the coronavirus,” city officials said in a statement.

The city has invested more than $700,000 since March 17 to help the homeless.

With help from Community Services Agency and the faith community, police have distributed 465 hygiene kits, 200 grocery gift cards and 200 masks as of April 11.

“We are fortunate to have a police department that has been active in homeless outreach and collaborates with community-based organizations, such as the Community Services Agency,” said Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga. “They are accustomed to being on the front line of offering services to the homeless and those unstably housed, even before this crisis.”

“There’s been an outpouring of support,” Magee said.

Through its Cops & Gobblers program, the Mountain View Public Safety Foundation provided 600 $50 Safeway gift cards to the Community Services Agency on April 7, and an additional 200 for police to distribute.

"We're hoping to receive enough support to do another distribution of gift cards at the end of this month," said Joy Garza, foundation executive director.

For more on foundation efforts, visit

Under its #TogetherMV campaign, the city opened an online information portal and collected donations to purchase the hygiene kits. On the first day it opened, April 2, 164 people donated more than $17,000.
The city has launched programs for impacted renters and small businesses through #TogetherMV,, run in partnership with Los Altos Community Foundation.

To donate to the effort and for more information, visit

Parking, restroom locations

Mountain View also has extended hours for safe parking lots – where the city’s vehicle dwellers can park other than along city streets – and expanded its food services. There are three safe parking lots on county- and city-owned land and two more at local churches. They all include restrooms and handwashing stations.

Portable restrooms and handwashing stations are currently available at Rengstorff and Eagle parks, at the Transit Center at Evelyn Avenue and Castro Street, on the Stevens Creek Trail near the Evelyn trail entrance, at Downtown Parking Lot 7, at the intersection of Wentworth and Gemini avenues, and on Continental Circle. Handwashing stations can be found at city hall and Pioneer Park.

“The city remains committed to addressing the needs of our most vulnerable residents, and staff have been working night and day to implement solutions as fast as we can,” City Manager Kimbra McCarthy said.

McCarthy added that city staff is “currently assessing” the feasibility of opening other restrooms at city parks.

“Staff is also working hard to find resources for additional shower services, as one of the planned solutions is to reopen the shower at Hope’s Corner,” she said.

The nonprofit Hope’s Corner, operating out of Trinity United Methodist Church at Hope and Mercy streets, regularly provides to-go meals for homeless residents. Los Altos United Methodist Church members volunteer for the program.

The city has contracted with Valley Health to provide a mobile health center every week at Downtown Parking Lot 7, adjacent to Hope’s Corner.

“I believe that we are stepping up in Mountain View,” McCarthy said. “We have embraced the call to action that our community is all in this together, and we are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our residents. We are doing our very best to respond to the community’s needs as quickly as possible, even as information changes on a daily basis in this crisis.”

“Everyone is coming together,” Magee added. “You can see the best in people coming out – it’s been one of the most rewarding times of my career.”

Read more about local resources for residents with need: School districts are distributing free meals, a mental health nonprofit is offering “tele-health" counselling for families under stress, and local students have offered to make grocery runs for neighbors in need. 

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