When I graduated from San Jose State University in 1995, I had a list of friends that were homeless. I often wondered if the homeless community, who lived in the bushes and ate out of garbage cans, would ever be relieved from the misery of asking a guy half their age for a quarter or what was left of the overpriced sandwich I was eating on my break from the Spartan Pub. Being a veteran, I was amazed at how many of the handouts I gave went to those with military records. Sadly, some of the same people who used to hit me up for change and food are still circulating in the downtown area over a decade later.
A quick review online shows very limited resources for homeless humans in San Jose. Sadly, the ones that are located downtown are being run out by Vice Mayor Cindy Chavez. Take, for example, Major Tollerud’s experience at Salvation Army on Fourth St. The major told me that the vice mayor stopped by one day to chew him out and tell him he would never get what he longed for—bringing millions of dollars into downtown to expand the center’s programs.
Another example is the Community Homeless Alliance Ministry (CHAM) that sits a hundred yards from City Hall. Reverend Scott Wagers has been in an ongoing battle with the city over homeless issues and has been repeatedly ignored by the mayor and the council. CHAM and Salvation Army have to be considered faith-based services as they also provide a place to worship. Sadly, some faith-based candidates, who say that they want San Jose to be a wonderful place to worship, don’t seem to think that homeless people are entitled to spiritual guidance.
When I bought my home on E. Empire St. in 1997, I met an entirely different indigent community living in motor homes and trailer trucks right alongside the Mariani Packing Plant. Occasionally, they would hit me up for an electrical outlet or my water hose would be used as a shower when I wasn’t looking.
Long after the demolition of Mariani’s and the tin shacks that sat where Blockbuster is on Jackson St., there is still an occasional sleepover on N. Seventh. This past December, I met a lady living in her car on Seventh and Empire. She was there until just a few weeks ago, when she moved to Seventh and Taylor. Her car is stuffed with the same things that many homeless people have piled in shopping carts. The smell emanating from the car is atrocious. Is this blight? Is this human? If the services that are here for people in this position are under attack, how can these organizations do outreach to a lady who has lived within two blocks of my home, in her car, for six months?
We are judged as a community from a faith-based perspective by how we look after our poorest and most downtrodden humans. What will this judgment look like on Election Day?
The author is a candidate for San Jose City Council Member in District 3.
Leonard McKay will return in two weeks.