Some sectors of Silicon Valley may be prospering, but there is another side to the valley, that of individuals and families struggling to make ends meet. Their number is rising, according to non-profit agency officials, and striking is these days is more among the needy are younger clients, many of them students.

At last week’s Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) Cupertino/Sunnyvale District tour meeting, Marie Bernard, Sunnyvale Community Services (SCS) executive director, said in response to the rising need, SCS has deepened its programs and will be extending services to those in need in the Alviso area.

SCS helps over 7,000 residents in the Sunnyvale area with food, in-kind assistance and financial aid. Bernard said SCS is very focused on the young and seniors – 39 percent of SCS clients are under the age of 18 and 14 percent are seniors.

Every Monday, the agency distributes 30 to 40 pounds of free fresh produce to an estimated 900 families. Clients are able to pick up for additional bags of nutritious food to help stretch their budgets a little further. SCS also provides children school meals throughout the year, including the summer months. In addition to all these, the SCS has a food pantry program, where families can shop once a month for meats, dairy items, canned food, household supplies, paper products, and more.

The nonprofit provides emergency financial assistance to low-income Sunnyvale residents who have been hit with an unexpected expense, like a major car repair, medical bills and other emergencies that can throw them off their budget.

“We help those who are one bill away from being homeless,” said Bernard.

Bernard explained by the time residents come to the SCS for help, they are already strapped with loans. Many are victims of payday lenders who charge interest rates as high as 459 percent on an annual basis, and owe these lenders thousands of dollars.

Kohinoor Chakravarty, director of Development and Communications for West Valley Community Services (WVCS), painted the same sad picture of the plight of the needy when she presented an overview of the agency’s services at the SILVAR district REALTORS® tour meeting last May.

Like SCS, WVCS is a non-profit, community-based agency that provides direct assistance and referral services to needy individuals and families. Clients served by the agency reside in Cupertino, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, West San Jose and the unincorporated mountain regions.

Chakravarty noted the agency is seeing many students who are homeless and hungry. There are 200 students from De Anza College who are homeless. Their families cannot afford the rising rents in the area and have moved away. The students have chosen to stay so they can finish their studies. Since they cannot afford to rent an apartment, some couch surf; others live in their cars.

“It’s a sad situation,” said Chakravarty. In response to the rising needs of homeless and hungry students, she announced WVCS will be establishing food pantries at the De Anza and West Valley community colleges.

Currently 1,614 individuals are served through the WVCS food pantry and 770,515 pounds of food are distributed to clients. There are 231 individuals enrolled in food stamps, free/reduced lunches and health insurance.

WVCS also provides $100,615 in emergency financial assistance to 69 households. Among the agency’s special programs are its holiday food baskets, which are distributed to 212 needy families; holiday shopping spree serving 593 families; and its Back-to-School event, which helps 120 children shop for clothes for school.

In addition to the opening of the food pantries at the community colleges, the WVCS executive director announced the agency will be starting a mobile care service. With a newly acquired vehicle, the agency will be dropping off basic food and health services to its beneficiaries, since many clients travel two hours to receive the services.