Reuniting Homeless with Their Families

On Mar. 9, 2009, I wrote about homeless encampments in San Jose. At that time, I shadowed police and social workers on five different occasions. They went out to relocate the homeless and clean up property they were occupying.

On July 25, 2011, I wrote about mental illness and how deinstitualization has in part contributed to an increased homeless population:

Most recently, the homeless encampment issue has come up again. Specifically, there is a Fresno court case and recent state legislation providing more rights to the homeless people/encampments that impacts all California cities ability to dismantle encampments. 

Government has offered—and continues to offer—assistance to the homeless. There could be a debate by some on how much or how little in social programs we as a society offer the homeless. As detailed in my past writings, some of the homeless suffer from mental illness, while others struggle with substance abuse or have experienced grave misfortune in life. 

The homeless are offered emergency shelters, potential transition to Single Room Occupancy (SRO) facilities, federal work programs, county programs and non-profits services which may include assistance with substance abuse or medical care. The cost of these services comes out of our taxes. Some would argue that when more assistance is offered it attracts more homeless people to where those services are provided.

I don’t necessarily agree that an individual city could ever build enough housing for the homeless or extremely low income housing, as more individuals would come. However, there may be a more cost-effective solution for a portion of the homeless population that could also help reunite families.

As mentioned in my 2009 post, many of the people I encountered within the homeless encampments were not from San Jose or even California. Regions known for good weather and being generous have become places where homeless individuals are more inclined to relocate.  We live in a borderless society between states and cities in the USA, and social problems ebb and flow based on the movement of people.

For all the programs we offer, I believe we should also offer one-way transportation to homeless individuals who desire to be reunited where they may have the support of family and friends. I understand, however, that not everyone who has family and friends in their hometown may be welcomed due to personal conflicts, abuse or shame. But some people may prefer this option.

Families that have abandoned their homeless relatives, for whatever reason, may find that distance allows them to easily forget. Perhaps reuniting homeless individuals, even where there has been abandonment, could change circumstances, especially if medication is appropriately provided for those who need it.

New York City offers one-way transportation to homeless individuals, some of whom are even flown to other continents. Even international air transportation is less expensive than the cost of housing associated with homeless individuals in New York. Reunification is also spreading to Hawaii and Florida.

Does this pass the buck? Maybe. But if someone wants to return to his or her hometown and we can facilitate the less costly alternative, then why not? It may be easier for some of these individuals to get into a regular groove with their family or friends. For those who may label this idea heartless, I would like to see them advocate for a homeless shelter adjacent to their home or show a willingness to pay for these services by allocating money from one government department budget to another.

It is not realistic to ask the same critic to pay a tax to support the homeless, because it would never pass with voter approval. So, inevitably, we pay today in many ways, and that means less money for something else government may provide to residents.

In conclusion, a percentage of San Jose’s homeless population would like to be reunited with family and friends. Enabling reunification would allow government to better provide the necessary services to the remaining homeless population.


    • Actually…

        67.78%  11,209
        25.08%  4,148
      BILL CHEW  
        7.14%  1,180

      It was only 33.22%.  The other 67.78% think he’s doing a fabulous job.

      This is actually not a bad idea PLO.  Speaking from experience, reuniting a homeless person with their family is the best thing to do.  They might actually listen to their family more, or the family might be less willing to give up on them (if they come from a truly caring family, or at least have ONE member willing to put up with them till they straighten out)

      Usually I disagree with you on a lot, but I know this works, so how can I disagree?

    • If you want to help San Jose, just give us some evidence on someone who faked a disability to get a better pension. Over 80 percent of the PD and the FD do you know.

      • you want evidence , just look up P. Constant on youtube. enough said. But you are sadly mistaken if you honestly believe 80% of Public safety gets or wants a disability . when your Mom/Dad said ” If you have your Health , Then you have it all” . it is the truth nothing can replace your health

        • Prescient                                                                            

          I dont know if that percentage is correct or not. where did you get that info, russell crosbby? secondly , These individuals put their lives on the line for the public. Many have suffered serious injuries or contracted Disease from doing their jobs. I know individuals who can barely walk/move , have had back surgeries,shoulder surgeries,knee surgeries,neck surgeries, Cancer, breathing problems, and yes death. you honestly dont believe that they have earned their disability? these individuals put themselves at risk helping/rescuing others.
          Regardless of what you think………..Public safety jobs beat the body up, but make no mistake , everybody wants to retire healthy. if I may ask what do you do for a living? have you ever injured yourself trying to help others? ever had any surgeries, ever had to under go rehab? Ever had people that you are trying to help swing fists ,call you names, spit at you?  heaven forbid you need public safety, but if you did and they got injured in the act, would they deserve assistance?

        • I believe the disability rate for Los Angeles is 50 percentage points less than for San Jose. Those numbers in and of themselves prove that a lot of the cases here are fake. Now don’t get me wrong, if there’s something really wrong with you and you can’t work, cool. But there are many jobs more dangerous. Especially if you consider the fact that more than 75 percent of Fire Department calls aren’t for fires at all.

        • Prescient,
          In the past you have thrown out some numbers as fact that were false. Other posters have called you on this. Just a suggestion, but maybe in your future posts you could provide links for where you get your figures. Your hyperbole inversely impacts your credibility. I know Pete Constant’s office, ironically, led the charge for changing the disability system, so maybe his office could supply you with some facts.

        • I’ve mentioned the >80 percent figure for disability pensions. And I’ve said that more than 75 percent of FD calls are not due to fires. Specifically which one is wrong and what is the correct answer. By the way we agree that if the figures are correct I’ve won the argument.

        • I don’t mean to respond to a response but in fiscal year 2005-2006 79% of fire fighters retired on disability pensions. As for calls to the Fire Department there were 3,665 calls for fires and hazardous issues and 45,012 calls for everything else – mostly EMS. So your right, it wasn’t 80 percent who retired on disability so I guess you got me on that. Sorry dude.

    • Hi Councilmember,

      Your remark whether a city will ever be able to build enough housing for the homeless or extremely low income is very interesting.

      However, this number will shock you. Over 220,000 K12 students were identified as “homeless” in local school districts across California.  Nationwide, the number of homeless students could surpass 1 million this year for the first time, according to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. The average family size of a student is 3. You do the math.  We have to crush this cycle of generational poverty and homelessness or we’ll be reuniting homeless to their families long after we’re buried.

      Here’s some good news! Recently, a Silicon Valley “Opening Doors 2020” campaign coordinated by My Project Youth Connect ( ) received a significant confirmation from the federal government at “The Northern California Homeless Family and Veteran Family Policy Forum” in San Jose.

      The “Opening Doors 2020” local advocacy campaign for families and veteran families goal of creating a comprehensive homeless ten year planned was confirmed by USICH. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness supports and confirmed on 6/29/2012 that “in order to be successful in eradicating homelessness in cities across the nation, cities need to have a comprehensive plan that include ALL homeless populations,” stated Matthew Doherty of the USICH.

      HUD’s Policy brief in 2012 also confirms the new definition of homeless to include: Families with children or unaccompanied youth who are unstably housed and likely to continue in that state. This is a NEW category of homelessness, and it applies to families with children or unaccompanied youth who have not had a lease or ownership interest in a housing unit in the last 60 or more days, have had two or more moves in the last 60 days, and who are likely to continue to be unstably housed because of disability or multiple barriers to employment.

      A SPECIAL THANK YOU to the USICH, Councilmember’s Kansen Chu, Ash Kalra, Xavier Campos, Sam Liccardo, Assemblymember Paul Fong and Bob Weickowski for their support.

      Councilmember, we’ll be glad to talk with you about our campaign anytime.

  1. Councilmember,

    This resource has existed in San Jose for over a decade and has resulted in reunification for those who have a willing family member on the other end of the journey. The homeless community has long appreciated the City of San Jose’s Housing Department’s willingness to support innovative solutions like this. 

    Reunification with family is one way to end a person’s homelessness, but this is often not a viable solution for the thousands of men and women who’ve been in our streets for many years.

    Studies across the nation point to the success and cost savings associated with permanent supportive housing. Destination: Home is proud of our partnership with the City of San Jose and our collective efforts to increase housing resources for our lowest income residents.

    Homeless individuals and families can continue to access one way transportation through the Housing Services Partnership by contacting EHC LifeBuilders. They use a reunification approach that requires family verification before any arrangements are made.

    • Thanks for pointing this fact out. It goes to the often made point on this blog that Councilman Oliverio is way out of touch.

  2. Pier,

    With all due respect, your post shows a rather heartless side to the homeless issue.

    You know that reunification is just a buzz word for ridding ourselves of an individual who we would rather not have as part of our community.

    As an officer, I have dealt with hundreds of homeless people. The overwhelming majority of them have mental issues, and secondarily alcohol or drug problems, many times brought on by the mental issues.
    The vast majority of them have rather minor criminal records and have lost the ability to function as a part of society, but mean no harm.

    While wiping your collective hands of them may seem like a good idea to you, I find it callous and offensive. It comforts us to believe we are so vastly different than them, and we could not end up in a similar situation. There is Us and there is Them. Get to know some of these people like I have. There are people with college degrees, those that were professional people, owned their own businesses, served in our military. Something then happened in their life such as a divorce, death, job loss, mental issues etc, that caused their lives to spiral. There is not some huge chasm between Us and Them.

    If you want a “reunification” project, it should be with full support of the family who is going to be dealing with the family member, not just a one-way ticket to rid ourselves of an unsavory person. These are people who have lost the ability to function and buying them a one way ticket out of town does nothing for them.

    • Have you applied for a disability pension yet? It is tax free you know. At least the federal part. Maybe you can use some of that money to help, or perhaps you don’t even live in San Jose.

      • prescient, I don’t know how you do it but you do.  Maybe you should change your name to “consistent” because you are consistently wrong. Disability retirements are NOT tax free. A percentage MIGHT be but not the whole thing not federal not state.

        • Disability retirements are not tax free? Well this will be a test case as to your credibility. By the way, posting at 3:34 PM instead of AM, I’m impressed.

        • Maybe I gave you too much credit… I bellieved you could read and comprehend when I posted the link to the IRS Rules regarding calculation of TAXES OWED on DISABILITY PENSIONS @ 3:13 AM… I guess I was wrong as evidenced by your inability to follow the thread… Thanks continuing to be who you are!

      • Spoken like some one who depends on others to do what they cant! No I have not applied for a disability retirement nor do I plan to , even thou I have been injured numerous times and have had 5 surgeries over the last 22 years. AND , yes Regrettably ………….I do live in this City. But if it is all the same to you ,I have encouraged my two older children to buy in Campbell and in Santa Clara where they will be in much better “public safety” hands , after the mass exodus.

  3. Having attended several recent seminars on poverty and homelessness, I have been struck about how very little discussion in poverty or homelessness circles is devoted to interrupting generational homelessness.

    The emphasis seems to be on a day-to-day approach which misses the fact that poverty and homelessness can become part of a family’s culture.

    Without creating a police state, please make sure that the new city-county plan on homelessness integrates the criterion of interrupting generational poverty and homelessness which afflicts members of every age group and every ethnic group.

    Taxpayers have the right to insist that their tax dollars interrupt the processes that lead to homelessness and poverty, not just maintain them.

  4. BTW, City Hall currently has a collection of photographs and artwork on display that focuses on homeless encampments along Coyote Creek. You make the call on what message is trying to be sent.


  5. Ironically, back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Santa Clara County aquired the nickname “Santa Clause County” because of its generous social services.  Many other states and communities around the country would ship via one-way greyhound tickets their problems to California for us to deal with.

    All that has changed, both with the level of social services offered as well as the ability to climb out of poverty easily with the increasingly high costs of living in this area (housing, transportation, medical, etc.)

    Sometimes re-uniting folks with family is a good thing, but sometimes not.  When people have sunk into a pit of mental illness and substance abuse, there’s an obvious reason for them being “estranged” from family.  This might be a more complex problem than it at first appears as parents, children, spouses and others may not be happy to see their “estranged” family member back in their midst with the associated mental illness and substance abuse stuff.

  6. D6Diva,

    Get over it.  Election is done.  You lost.  Big time.  As my Grandma would say “do you want a tear cup?”

    As Cortese pointed out, 67.78% believe Pier Luigi is the right man for the job.

    Did Pier even campaign?  I didn’t see any lawn signes around, for anyone.  I wonder what that % would have been if Pier actually had a campaign.

    • Bookworm;

      First of all I applaud your use of irony in your name…a grub, insect or other bug that chews up words in printed material and doesn’t necessarily read what he/she is chewing.  Bravo.  Brilliant.

      I have never bemoaned the numbers of the most recent election.  Not privately, not publicly.  The fact that about 10% of the population voted in Mr. Oliverio for the third time (according to Mr. Cortese and the registrar) has what to do with any of the words I wrote?

      Mr. Oliverio was elected to represent all of the people of his district whether they voted for him or not.  Not just 11, 209 special people. There’s about 85,000 more than that in the district and he certainly can’t ship us all out.

      As a resident I have a right to call him on BS and demand he actually do the job he wanted, campaigned for and was elected to three times.  That includes responding to the residents of his district who have complained and documented issues for the entire time he’s been in office.

      I have buried a homeless relative.  I have had friends who drove themselves into an early and bankrupt grave trying their hardest to keep mentally ill family members home and medicated because there are few socially acceptable recourses.  I have the right, and an obligation, whether I voted for him or whether I even live here to challenge the idea presented that families abandon their pesky relatives en mass for the rest of us to deal with.

      Being elected to an office does not convey some supernatural power of being right on anybody.  He was at the very least rude and insensitive.  At worst he is either ignoring the very programs he oversees as an elected official or simply wants to generate a round of “we won, you suck” from his supporters whenever his statements are challenged.

    • And your going to lose, as a taxpayer, when the city loses in court. So, get your own tear cup ready, and cry me a river.

  7. Having worked with this individuals for over 25 years, 90% do not want to go anywhere, they just want to be left alone.  They have no desire to be reuninted with anyone.  Have you ever gone to a feeding at a park and then watch them throw the food on the ground.  We bring free clothing, they change in public and leave their old clothes on the ground.  Sorry no longer giving my time to support them.

    Check out the camps and you see the same crap, but watch out for needles.  And we want to catalog their belongings!  My God they could care less, thanks for taking my junk aay and cleaning up my site.  Can you come back next month?

    How about this!  From Measure B,

    Adjusting for the increased pension costs, today a San Jose Police Officer brings home, before taxes, $78,430—a full $3,337 less than they made nearly a decade ago (put another way, this is just slightly more than the salary of an intern at Facebook).  This reduced wage, does not account for inflation or the increases in health care costs and co-pays.

  8. What a crock.

    First, I find it ironic that the council member who has vilified public safety workers has the nerve to complain because the laws against camping on public property aren’t enforced.  This is particularly questionable because the council office did so little to eradicate an encampment under the bridge at Bascom and LG Creek where people had tunneled under the bridge.  This raised questions about the integrity of the roadway itself.  That encampment, along with the drug dealing, prostitution and other criminal activity flourishing along the creek has been ignored by the council office for years despite ongoing documented complaints.

    Second, the statement that families “..have abandoned their homeless relatives..” is one of the most insensitive, demeaning and outrageous pieces of writing I have experienced.  While your personal experience may give you the viewpoint that all families can simply chip in and corral a family member into keeping close to the home fires and not bother others, it shows a complete lack of any knowledge about what others may endure.  The assumption that these families have chosen a path, that they have not endured years of trauma, that they simply tossed out relatives like so much trash is one of the most disgusting things I’ve heard.  I will gladly line you up with a host of families who have gone bankrupt, who have combed the streets, who have endured years of abuse and who have buried their homeless family members any day of the week you choose.  And I will gladly take you to the place where my own family member died.

    The third (in a seemingly endless list) issue is the idea that if reunited it’s simply a matter of handing out drugs to ensure “..medication is appropriately provided..” does little to ensure medicate is appropriately taken.  Few families have the ability to ensure a medically unstable person maintains treatment and there are no resources to “force” a person into maintaining a treatment program.  The recent shooting in Oakland happened because a person went off his meds.  He had family, he had medical oversight, he had everything you think works.  But, his illness told him he didn’t need those drugs, his family can’t force them down his throat and his illness ultimately won.

    Again, you have ignored existing services available to create an inflammatory response.  You have ignored your own failure to actually help correct the situation in your own district.  You have blamed families.  You have ignored the fact that many people on the margins benefit from SRO or other low cost programs and become productive members of society; these are the safety nets that cost us less than the result of years of chronic homelessness. 

    We would not allow animals to be abandoned on the streets, yet we allow people to fall through the system until they offend our sensibilities or make headlines.

    Here’s a challenge for you if you really want to change the scenario:  Go to the Walgreens at West San Carlos and Meridian.  Get out of Willow Glen.  You’ll find a woman collapsed on the sidewalk there just about any day of the week.  If she’s not there, she’s not far away.  Get her coherent, get her cleaned up, get her illness squared away and get her functioning.  Then either find her family and reunify them or figure out what she does next.  Let us know how that project goes.

  9. Having worked with the Care Not Cash campaign in SF (which sought to replace large monthly payments to the homeless with services and housing) and witnessing its passage and implementation almost 10 years ago, I welcome any and all efforts to help the homeless population in San Jose, my home for the last four years. I applaud Councilmember Oliverio for initiating and continuing such dialogue.