Downtown Homeless Services Under Attack

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.


  1. Maybe Cindy should be asked if she really “chewed out” the Salvation Army Major Tollurud and what it was about.  There several places in San Jose where the homeless can get food.  The Urban Team Ministries is located off North 13th Street.  Loaves and Fishes south of downtown provices meals as well as ECH on Little Orchard Street. To name a few.  The city cannot eradicate homelessness. All the social programs in the world won’t do it.  Think of San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Sacramento.  All have their problems.  There are those who have been “on the street” for years by choice and will remain there.  I lived in Europe for many years and I have seen homelessness in all of the cities which I have visited.  Mr. Kyne, you can add all the free food and lodging social programs available and it won’t solve the problem.

  2. Here’s a view from the inside-
    Cindy Chavez’s financial statements that were filed, have Non-Union Construction Company’s that have contributed to her campaign and there are other company’s that don’t even have contractor licenses.
    1. Why is she collecting money from Non-Union companies that she is against?
    2. What would her Pro-Union pals think about this?
    3. Is it legal to collect contribution monies from company’s with no contractor’s licenses?
    If you Vote for a Mayor you need to look at their financial statements!
    One incumbent major candidate says he’s fiscal responsible but he doesn’t list what he spent his money on!
    Another incumbent candidate spent thousands on a computer, printer and other outrages items!
    If you look at the way they spend their contribution monies, this will determine the same way they spend our City money once they are in office (careless)!

    GM (for the other-less known right candidate)

  3. Mr. Kyne, you bring up a very important issue regarding mostly downtown.  Unfortunately this isn’t an entirely local issue.  It’s a problem that extends well beyond the city, county, state and extends to federal levels as well as our US Constitution.

    Living downtown, with an alley, for over 16 years I’ve seen just about all aspects of the homeless “issue”.  As a homeowner and frequent visitor to our downtown parks I can say unequivocally the homeless are “blight” and make downtown a place I wouldn’t want my kids around.  Our alley is often used as a toilet, hangout to consume alcohol and steal fruit from any trees within reach.  (No one is dumb enough to leave anything of value in the alley.)

    It’s obvious to me the homeless are in need of a lot of help.  Not just a bed, toilet, place to sleep and something to eat.  The vast majority have severe mental and addictive problems.

    However, as a society throughout our nation we’ve failed to provide the “real” and extensive help the vast majority of homeless need.  The ACLU has seen to it the homeless who are obviously mentally ill can’t be institutionalized.  We, as a society, haven’t committed resources to insure our institutions are fit places to administer to the ill even if we could force them there.

    So until homelessness and its sources can be dealt with throughout our entire country woe be it to the city that becomes known as a haven for the homeless.  Until the citizens of San Jose that live outside of the downtown area live with the homeless and experience the cost of their presence I’m actually with Ms. Chavez in taking efforts to keep the homeless out of the downtown area.  (BTW, in case you don’t know, I’m not a fan of Mrs. Potter.)

    I support the Salvation Army, emotionally and financially and other faith based organizations in their efforts.  Other than providing tokens for downtown toilets I’m not in favor of expending city funds for San Jose homeless.  This is a national problem and needs to be addressed financially and medically at that level.  We should here from Zoe Lofgren how she is leading the way to improve the plight of the homeless in America.

  4. Dennis,

    You apparently did not understand or did not tell us the real reason the Salvation Army was chewed out – They were housing 35-45 men convicted of Megan’s Law sexual offenses and as a condition of probation they are not supposed to associate with each other and these registered sexual offenders were in a single downtown facility near schools, child care and families with children

    There are 198 megan’s law offenders in the zip code 95112

  5. Thank you San Jose Iniside for giving space to one of the three percent candidates.  Is Bill Chew on the issue of police services next??

    Kyne does not wear a flag tie, just a big t-shirt with his face printed on it.

    • To J. Walker,

      It is because of people like you that the homeless/ mentally ill are ignored as if the are trash. You should watch what you say as you never know if you will be living in your car one day. I would bet you are either some over weight short guy with a balding head, or you lacking in the important areas downstairs. Leading you to over compensate in other areas.
      Some advice to you, get off the stick you are sitting on, throw away your insecure uninformed opinion and get a clue. I think it is time for you to get off the podium.

  6. #7. So where does society put convicted sex offenders once they are released from prison?
    It’s a thorny issue that our society has not yet faced.

    We are very good at placing restrictions where convicted sex offenders cannot live & work. At some point we, as a society are going to have to agree on locations where this type of criminal can live once their time is served.

    Certainly not near schools and parks. Not near my house or family, or yours either. But where?

    Meanwhile I think it’s wrong for posturing politicians to fault groups like the Salvation Army who are trying to provide basic food and shelter, counseling and rehabilitation services to such people. Perhaps city leaders should instead work with organizations like the Salvation Army to find long-term solutions to this difficult problem.

    It may not grab as many headlines, but it would be a better test of leadership.

  7. Dennis, thank you!  As much as I appreciate some of what the Salvation Army does to help people, I think they NEED to move the sex offenders out of downtown, or San Jose for that matter.

    I would also love to see other neighborhoods help out with other folks that need help.  Downtown has way more than our share of “halfway houses”.  Willow Glen and Almaden Valley need to have more of these facilities and I’m confident the politics of these “problems” will come to the forefront.

    This should be a high priority for the next District 3 council member.

  8. Wrong!! All agencies are like that, churches and non-churches. Honest people are punished and driven away. There’s no accountability. Only the crummiest people are allowed to go there or work there. I don’t feel safe there, too many assaultives. Drive them away instead. Clothes are too small. I’m not grateful for small clothes. Mostly there’s no swimwear. All they ever have in plus sizes is rules morals earbanging punishment and police. Saving for others is not my goal. Would you feel safe showing photo I D for clothes or anything else to people who call police on you? Why should I? It’s an invasion of privacy. They’re on power trips. They’re not fit to talk about God. Guess what: Police aren’t interested. Please leave them alone.

    If they do punish somebody really assaultive hooray. I got no pity for them, as long as I’m not punished. BTW, chili is a copout. These places should not be allowed to serve it. It’s gross.

    Trust me. I seen these places first hand.

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