New SJPD Recruits Serve the Homeless on Thanksgiving Day

Garett Saye says he joined the San Jose Police Department because he longed for a more fulfilling job than the one he held down at his family’s semi truck dealership for 15 years. “I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and help out the community,” he said. “Law enforcement is a brotherhood. Everyone takes care of each other.”

Six weeks into training at the academy, Saye and his fellow recruits got a chance to pay that sense of community forward by volunteering at the African American Community Service Agency (AACSA) to feed the homeless on Thanksgiving Day.

“It’s awesome to see the community coming together, just giving back to people and helping people in need,” Saye said.

Throughout the holiday event, police recruits helped Martha’s Kitchen serve meals and handed out sanitation packages for homeless people while nonprofits Community Seva and Sacred Heart Community Services donated rain ponchos, gloves, socks and beanies for people to stay warm and dry during the impending rainstorms. Other service providers, including HomeFirst, First 5 Santa Clara County and PATH, set up tables with pamphlets about how to access housing assistance.

SJPD Chief Eddie Garcia said he hoped the event helped dispel perceptions of an adversarial relationship between law enforcement and the homeless.

“[We’re] coming out here to speak to our unhoused community and say, ‘Hey, we’re here as a friend, we want to keep you safe from other people,’” he said at the event. “‘We know that there’s unhoused criminals that are preying on other unhoused people. But if you’re unhoused and you’re not conducting criminal activity, you have nothing to fear from this police department.’ It’s not going to be easy. It's not going to be overnight. But that’s the message we’re trying to send.”

SJPD recruits paid things forward for the Thanksgiving holiday. (Photo by Nicholas Chan)

CHAM Deliverance Ministry Pastor Scott Wagers, who’s been embedded with San Jose’s Street Crimes Unit as an advocate for the homeless, said he’s joined them in patrols of the creeks where many of the city’s unhoused residents live. “I make sure everything’s cool between the cops and the homeless,” Wagers assured. “Cops are doing a good job, but they can’t solve the problem.”

The bigger question, he told San Jose Inside, is: “Why can’t we find more resources to put them into housing?”

Edward Ortega, who said he’s been living in his car, showed up to the outreach event to pick up some much-needed supplies. “We’re just surviving and here we are,” he said.

In San Jose, and Santa Clara County as a whole, the homeless population has continued to grow faster than local governments and service providers have been able to house people. That’s a life-of-death problem, Wagers emphasized.

“They’re waiting on housing,” he said of the people he serves, “and if they don’t get housing, they die. People are dying on the streets in record numbers. We need more than this. We need to figure out how we’re going to get people indoors, out of the creek beds and out of horrible conditions.”

Scores of homeless people lined up for a Thanksgiving meal at last week's event. (Photo by Nicholas Chan)

Nicholas Chan is a journalist who covers politics, culture and current events in Silicon Valley. Follow him on Twitter at @nicholaschanhk.

3 Comments

  1. There is no “adversarial relationship” between the police and the homeless. The cops just let them do whatever they want! Have you ever tried to get a vagrant evicted from the public land adjoining your property? The police just tell them to move on, say “day after tomorrow”. But the bums have nowhere better to go to, so they remain in place indefinitely. Apparently the cops’ hands are tied: they have been ordered to treat homeless people with kid gloves.

  2. Notice how it was “recruits” that were acting as taxpayer funded cafeteria workers for the homeless? (Where’s an illegal alien when you need one?!) Might it be that the recruits have not yet had the opportunity to get, punched, kicked, or bit by a “homeless” or had some wino with hepatitis or antibiotic resistant tuberculosis, cough or spit in their face, or had one pull out a box cutter knife and wave it at them when they had to arrest him after he just exposed himself and “choked his chicken” in full view of the two female joggers along the Guadalupe Creek trail. My guess is these recruits have not yet had to arrest one of these “angels” and have not yet had the chance to reach into some “homeless” whack job’s jacket pocket and pull out an uncapped hypodermic syringe and hope they don’t get pricked with one the next time.

    Let social workers and Pastor Wagers feed the homeless and clean up the encampments and deal with drunk, drugged out, or decompensating mental cases. Let the police monitor pastor Wager’s approach and “make sure everything’s cool” when he has to go hands-on with the homeless. Go ahead pastor, go handcuff that “homeless” over there, the one with no pants on who is screaming at the elementary school kids walking to school.. Be nice now, and don’t forget to hand him a sandwich, along with the filthy pair of pants with the “load” in them that he just took off and tossed in the bushes.

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