San Jose, CA

Stop ignoring the problem, invest your time in this local initiative to improve the quality of life in San Jose

Tania Erasmus

Homeless people. We see them every day. We drive past them at intersections, we walk past them on sidewalks. Most of the time, we try to ignore them, wish them away. Sometimes we feel guilty and prepare to give them a coin, to reconsider when the light turns green, and images of drugs and alcohol misuse flash through our minds.
You can touch the lives of the homeless in San JoseUnsplash/ Nick Fewings/(CC)

You can make a difference in your local community

In the blink of an eye, we forget the hungry man on the street corner, we go home, we carry on with our lives and even get upset when we are called privileged. Never in a million years do we consider that the homeless person once, not too long ago, also had a job, a car, a home and even a family. We forget that in the blink of an eye, any one of us can end up on the next street corner in San Jose.

How do we address the problem in San Jose?

An informed individual from a charity organisation, recently stated that it is not smart to give money or food to people on the street. We are strengthening their bad habits and make them even more dependant. We are not addressing the issue at hand but only treating symptoms. We must get involved with non-profit organisations, and rather give our help through a structured charity. Initially, the remark made me furious. I thought of all the corruption in the world and contributions not reaching the needy. The statement lingered at the back of my mind, and I started thinking of the homeless in San Jose. It bothered me to such an extent that I searched the internet to see what structures are in place, and I discovered City Team.

What does CityTeam do in our neighbourhood?

According to my research, CityTeam San Jose is loving and caring, teamwork, a place of safety, a hot meal, friendship, a helping hand and most of all understanding of hardship. They assist and give long term help to so many men, women and children in the area. They assist with food security, they give refuge to victims of domestic violence. CityTeam provides shelter for the homeless and has many transitional housing programs with help services in place. They provide spiritual care programs to assist the needy and even have education and training programs available. CityTeam San Jose — You Can Help

My first reaction was a bit cynical. My biggest concern was, that it might sound fantastic, but cannot be sustainable. Where will they get people to do the work? Nobody works for free, we all know that, don’t we?

Where do they find the local volunteers?

The volunteer program at CityTeam is all about community participation. They focus on involving people from San Jose to help their neighbours in need. CityTeam have volunteer guidelines in place to streamline and manage and coordinate volunteers. These volunteers give their time, talent and skill to help the needy without being paid for their services. The volunteer program includes adults, youth volunteers under the age of eighteen if the parents sign a waiver and between ten and fourteen, where the parent must be present. They have strict rules that volunteers must abide by. Volunteers need to dress appropriately, must take care not to get into personal conversations with the needy and refrain from relationships with their clients. The safety of volunteers is of immense importance, and a whole list of safety practices must be adhered to. Injuries or potentially harmful situations must be reported, to protect the volunteers.

I believe the fact that they are so strict with the volunteer process is a good thing. When you have to take responsibility for peoples well-being, it is of the utmost importance to keep unwanted elements or people with hidden agendas at bay. In situations like this, you work with vulnerable people on both sides of the spectrum. The needy need protection from people who wants to drag them down even further. The volunteers might be exposed to the emotional trauma and sadness of the life of a homeless person, which can cause harm to them on a psychological level. A legion of related problems can come from this, and strict management of the volunteer program is to protect all parties involved.

Where and when can I get involved in San Jose?

If you want to become a volunteer, it is best to sign up online and complete the registration process. Volunteers must not just show up without registering first, due to social distancing guidelines. They can not accommodate walk-in volunteers at this stage. They have an online calendar where you can reserve your spot. The program welcomes group involvement, so you can come with your company, family, friends and even as a church group to assist as volunteers. Proper arrangements must be made though, but all the necessary information is on their webpage.

The fact that their help centres and venues are spread all over San Jose is really impressive. Donations form a large part of this program. Anything from food, toys, clothes, blankets or financial contributions are welcome. There are eight centres in San Jose, where you can volunteer or bring your donations. I’ve included all these places in this publication, with the allocated time-slots for your convenience.

ACE Esperanza Middle School, 1665 Santee Dr, San Jose, 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month, 1:30–3:00pm
Linda Vista Elementary School @ River of Life Family Church, 218 Kirk Ave, San Jose, 1st & 3rd Wednesdays of the month, 1:30–3:00pm
CityTeam Mayfair, ACE Empower Academy, 625 S Sunset Ave, San Jose, 1st & 3rd Fridays of the month, 1:30–3:00pm
Community Services Warehouse, 1297 N. 13th St, San Jose, 1st & 3rd Saturdays of the month, 10am-12pm
Milpitas Pantry at Silicon Valley Alliance Church, 10 Dempsey Rd, Milpitas, CA 95035, 1st & 3rd Saturdays of the month, 9:30–11:00am
Via Monte @ Menlo Church SJ campus, 5655 Gallup Dr, San Jose, 2nd & 4th Fridays of the month, 4:00–5:00pm
Gateway Neighborhood Center, 477 N Mathilda Ave, Sunnyvale, 2nd & 4th Saturdays of the month, 10:00am-12:00pm
Campbell Church of Christ, 1060 Hedegard Avenue, Campbell, 2nd & 4th Saturdays of the month, 12:00–2:00pm
The people of San Jose is not garbage, we need to help themUnsplash/Markus Spiske/(CC)

Can I start my own local fundraiser or drive in San Jose?

It would be wonderful if everybody could donate their time as volunteers, but most people work a full day and simply just do not have the time and energy to spend time at centres and shelters. There are other ways to help though. You can start your own project or fundraiser. Projects are running right through the year. Early in the year, you can get involved in the Easter drive to collect food donations to provide a decent Easter meal at the shelters. By distributing the EASTER FOOD DRIVE FLYER online among your friends, family or contacts, you can make a difference without even lifting a finger.

Another project that you can help with is the Hygiene Drive. Just like all of us, homeless people also require cleaning products like; soap, toothpaste, shampoo, shaving foam and sanitary pads. By distributing the HYGIENE DRIVE FLYER and getting work colleagues to join in, you are already changing someone’s life.

All of these projects are aimed at a specific need in the community. The sharing of the COAT DRIVE FLYER can be your project through the winter months or distributing the TURKEY DRIVE FLYER during Thanksgiving might be your way of giving back. You can also get your children involved by distributing the TOY DRIVE FLYER or get involved in the Backpack drive to collect school supplies.

We all spend so much time on social media platforms daily, to add a flyer to your posts will not even take a minute and might help someone to gain the strength to pull their life together.
You can assist by gifting your time at a local food shelterUnsplash/Joel Muniz/ (CC)

I am a person who believes in tough love. I expect people to cope with life. Sometimes I look at my history and think that if I could survive through certain hard times in my life, other people should also be able to.

It does not work that way!

We are not all equally equipped to cope with life-changing traumatic events. Sometimes people lose all hope and all faith and give up. All these heartbreaking “stories”, standing at the crossroads, once had a home, a family or a reason to live. To get involved in an organised charity is the way to go about this. With your help, more people will find real hope and the tools to make lasting changes in their lives.

Get involved.

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A writer with a strong focus on feel-good local stories in and around the San Jose area. Animal Lover, Physical Therapist, and Local Business Supporter.

San Jose, CA

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