Op-Ed: Grace Baptist Church Stabbing Was a Tragedy That Could Have Been Averted

“We cannot take the action of one person and judge the entire unhoused community on the actions of that one person, because being unhoused isn’t just a physical issue, it's a mental one as well and we need to address that,” said James Chaney, one of the surviving victims of the horrific event on Sunday, Nov. 22.

As advocates for the unhoused, we completely agree with James.

We mourn all the victims, pray for the wounded and incarcerated, express our solidarity with the unhoused, and assert our determination to continue serving those in need in the San Jose and Santa Clara County communities.

Advocates have been warning local officials for years about the inadequacy of housing, shelter, addiction and mental health treatment for our lowest income residents.

It is a miracle that more violence has not erupted from the neglect and intolerable conditions that so many of our houseless neighbors are forced to live in. It is particularly unnecessary and unacceptable for such unspeakable squalor to exist here in Silicon Valley, the richest area in the entire world.

There are 10,000 unhoused people in Santa Clara County competing for access to two emergency shelters for singles, one for families, 10 detox beds, and reduced services due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Most restroom access has been closed, as have places to rest, charge cellphones and use electronics.

For every homeless person housed here, two or three new people become homeless, and the pandemic evictions are expected to make the situation much, much worse.

We’re already seeing the beginnings of this with camps growing larger from week to week. In 2020, an unhoused person dies every other day on the streets of Santa Clara County—and most are people of color.

Our housing system is broken and not sustainable.

Our elected officials have spent decades treating the unhoused community with benign neglect unless there’s a crisis or it’s campaign season.

Well, campaign season just ended and here we are in an entirely avoidable crisis and an unhoused man will finally be housed—in jail. Meanwhile, three other people are still in the hospital and two are awaiting burial.

The incident at Grace Baptist is exactly that, an incident.

It is not an indicator that all unhoused people are violent, on drugs or mentally ill. It is not an indicator that something like this will happen again where unhoused people congregate. It is a tragedy that likely could have been averted had there been better services for our unhoused neighbors.

This week temperatures will drop into the 30s and the only large emergency shelter is at the South Hall. We are dumbfounded by the lack of humanity and simple life saving steps taken by the city of San Jose and County of Santa Clara.

We call on our city, our county, and our nation to change their priorities, and begin adopting policies that value human life above special interests. We call for the creation of more rehab beds and mental health facilities, temporary shelters and navigation centers, sanctioned encampments, and much more.

The lives of unhoused people matter. Providing them the basic resources to reinforce that doesn’t seem like much to ask. Does it?

This column was co-authored by Sandy Perry of the Affordable Housing Network of Silicon Valley, Shaunn Cartwright of the Unhoused Response Group, Rev. Jethroe Moore of the San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP, Pastor Scott Wagers of CHAM Deliverance Ministry, RJ Ramsay of Second Street Voices and Jamie Foberg of In Their Shoes. Opinions are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].

10 Comments

  1. This op-ed is an incoherent, arrogant mess. Here’s why:
    1.) The article’s authors suggest they already know who murderer was. This is inaccurate and unfair: the alleged is innocent until proven guilty.
    2.) The authors think they can magically divine the murderer’s motives, specifically that the crime happened because of the duress of homelessness. How do they know this? Perhaps the murderer had personal reasons or individual grievances? We don’t know and won’t until this case is adjudicated in a court of law.
    3.) The article strips people involved of individual agency. Here’s the revealing quotes:
    “It is a tragedy that likely could have been averted had there been better services for our unhoused neighbors”
    Well, it’s certainly a tragedy, but the author’s conclusion that it occurred because there wasn’t enough government money thrown at the issue of homelessness is completely unsubstantiated–and suggests that murderers’ behavior is a function of government largesse. That is a dehumanizing attitude that erases identity, responsibility, and individual meaning from victims and perpetrators alike. Shame.

  2. One comment from sfgate:
    “Is this a re-print from The Onion? It’s everyone’s fault but the guy who did the stabbing.”

  3. > . . . the author’s conclusion that it occurred because there wasn’t enough government money thrown at the issue of homelessness is completely unsubstantiated–and suggests that murderers’ behavior is a function of government largesse.

    True.

    > That is a dehumanizing attitude that erases identity, responsibility, and individual meaning from victims and perpetrators alike.

    Very true.

    > Shame.

    Very, very true.

    Truth to power: the power of the local postmodernist political claque.

  4. This has to be one of the most intellectually dishonest opinion pieces I have ever read. Firstly, and as others have mentioned, blaming the fact of homelessness for a multiple murder and attempted murder strips individual agency from the suspect in question. Secondly, as per the Mercury News and statements from Mayor Liccardo and SJPD Chief, the stabbing rampage was entirely preventable, but for Santa Clara County’s sanctuary policy which prevented county law enforcement from notifying ICE that they had in custody a THRICE DEPORTED violent convicted felon.

    “At the time of the Sunday stabbing, Lopez had a pending misdemeanor domestic-violence charge in Santa Clara County following a June 25 arrest, while he was on probation for a felony domestic-violence conviction in San Joaquin County from earlier that month. Court records show that Judge Drew Takaichi granted him supervised release on June 30, but that release was revoked Aug. 31 after Lopez failed to show up to court.

    In 2011, he was convicted in the South Bay for assault with a deadly weapon and issued a two-year prison term, according to court records and authorities. He had been deported three times before, authorities said.

    Santa Clara County’s sanctuary policy — which was reaffirmed last year after heated debate following Larson’s killing — bars county law enforcement from alerting ICE about the pending jail release of an undocumented immigrant being sought for deportation. The county’s policy is stricter than the state’s sanctuary law, which prohibits the detainment of released inmates for ICE absent a judicial warrant but allows for notifications about an imminent jail release.”

    https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/11/25/san-jose-church-stabbing-police-chief-mayor-lament-preventable-tragedy/

    When the suspect was, again, arrested in June for domestic violence and, presumably, for felony probation violations, common sense would dictate that this suspect would have been denied bail or release from custody and that ICE should have been notified so that he might have been held to answer and detained in federal custody while awaiting trial for murder and attempted murder.

    I would very much like to know how homeless played a role in the suspect’s violent criminal past, in his recidivism, or in his felonious violations of US immigration law? What cognitive leaps can the author produce in support of her premise as stated in this article?

  5. We’re reaching a point where we’re going to have to take a page from the books of the Roman Legions to impose some accountability on bureaucrats and local government officials for the “sanctuary city” travesty.

    The Legions imposed accountability for failure in battle by means of “decimation”:
    execution of every tenth soldier for not performing with required valor.

    I’ll be civilized and compassionate and — for the moment– not demand executions of bureaucrats and officials. But we should at least start with firings and revocation of pensions.

    Since no one is willing to point the finger of blame at any bureaucrat, ten or twenty bureaucrats selected at random will be a useful starting point.

  6. oh jeez

    what a pile of bullocks

    is the dude crazy, maybe

    should he be in an institution, probably

    but come on man, if this is true, there can be no laws, no society, no civilization

    think maybe half a second on it

  7. How can ANY sane person write, or even think, “The incident at Grace Baptist is exactly that, an incident.” They can’t! It was MURDER!!!

    Keep this whacko writer quarantined!

  8. This opinion serves no purpose but to blame the public for the murders that occurred at Grace Baptist for not spending millions more on the homeless, above the billions we’ve already spent.

    They seems to completely ignore the facts that the suspect was here illegally and had been deported multiple times. Had a lengthy criminal record, and should have been deported for any one of these crimes, but was protected by the silly sanctuary polices created by San Jose, Santa Clara County and the State of California.

    So you use this ‘incident’ as an excuse to pander for more free housing for anyone who wants to show up in San Jose, I take the ‘incident’ as a reason to stop pandering to the homeless and illegal residents, and make San Jose a better place for the majority of the people who live here.

  9. “Our elected officials have spent decades treating the unhoused community with benign neglect unless there’s a crisis or it’s campaign season.”

    This is why I and many of my neighbors will be voting Republican or Independent in the future. Santa Clara County has been a one party county for decades and look where it has gotten us. Time for change.

  10. Republicans in the US Senate are stagnant and worse, as the so called Republican President took the party for a ride for self profit. Republicans have thus far resisted the simple and caring act of wearing a mask in public places causing untold deaths in Republican held states such as North Dakota, Texas, and Florida etc etc.

    Homelessness like Covid-19 is not a partisan issue. It is a humanitarian issue.

    However, having said that I am surprised that the so called homeless advocates which authored this mishmash of an article are indeed blaming the homeless and their plight in a murder by a convict on the loose which harbors violent tendencies towards his fellow man and women. He is a criminal and has taken advantage of the humanitarian effort of others to help homeless peoples.