West Valley Community Services’ 2020-21 Impact Report shows that the number of Los Gatos residents using its services increased for the second year in a row, particularly customers facing food insecurity.
The nonprofit — which also provides food, lodging and support services in Saratoga, Cupertino and West San Jose — reported that in 2020-21, its Los Gatos customer base saw an increase of 23 % and that city residents accounted for 18% of customers using its pantry. In 2019-20, WVCS saw 169 new Los Gatos customers and a 17% increase in pantry users across the city.
“While demand has remained steady and our numbers this year are higher than they were the pre-COVID year, our rental assistance numbers and our food distribution numbers are among the highest. high in our history,” said WVCS Executive Director Josh Selo, adding that the nonprofit saw an increase of 2,000 clients in the region in 2019-20 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. .
WVCS’s customer base also grew in the other communities it serves, by 29% in Cupertino, 6% in Saratoga and 42% in West San Jose.
“In general, our customer base is determined more specifically by the number of affordable housing units in a community,” Selo said. “If a community has more affordable housing, there are more people eligible for services. It is also due to the number of homeless people in our community.
The City of Los Gatos donated $50,000 to WVCS in the 2020-21 fiscal year to help residents during the pandemic. WVCS works closely with Los Gatos City Manager Laurel Prevetti.
“It’s more than just funding; it’s a true partnership where I feel like city leaders care about residents and are invested in making sure people can thrive in the community,” Selo said. “The management there has been a real pleasure to work with.”
As the pandemic has forced the nonprofit to adapt to unprecedented change, Selo said she’s also increased accessibility to WVCS. Now, instead of traveling to the Cupertino office, clients can set up virtual meetings with case managers.
“It’s a tool in our toolbox that will continue, even as COVID recedes in the background,” Selo said. “We believe we should be as customer-centric as possible. There are already so many stumbling blocks facing our customers; we want to make it easier for them in terms of access.
The main problems in Los Gatos are food and housing insecurity, he added. The WVCS’ Park-It Market, which serves as a no-cost “buyable” food pantry for customers, visits various locations in Los Gatos every Thursday and Friday.
Selo said many WVCS clients are referred by county or city agencies, and the nonprofit also does outreach at laundromats, cafes and homeless encampments.
“I would say part of the reason we’ve been so successful in meeting this increased demand during COVID was because we had worked for many years on these close relationships between all these different partners to be here for the community. “said Selo.
House of Hope, the pantry at Calvary Church in Los Gatos, also saw a surge in customer numbers last year.
“We’ve seen an increase of about 80 families to 120 families a week,” Kristi Gill, the church’s business administrator, said in an email. “We also have a waiting list of families who we are currently recommending to go elsewhere due to the limited resources we have.”