Housing advocates are working to enlist more government and community leaders in southern Santa Clara County in their campaign to advocate for programs assisting people in need of permanent shelter.
A group of Gilroy residents gathered in the community room of the Gilroy Public Library Oct. 28 to hear from local community leaders about the needs of homeless people and the availability of affordable housing.
The event was facilitated by Robert Stromberg from the San Jose-based organization, Destination Home, and was attended by people from Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin.
“We want to bring people together more regularly so we are working together more effectively,” said Stromberg. “What we will all walk away from this room with is a little more political power—this is an organizing activity.”
Strongberg said the goal of the event was to focus on real solutions. The end of the event was designated for small group brainstorming, where those in attendance threw out ideas they had for the different agencies and groups. A similar meeting was held in Gilroy in May.
Three speakers touched on different facets of the housing crisis in the area. Janessa Villareal from the Compassion Center told the group about the reality of the expense of living in Gilroy.
She said most people want to live in the place they’ve always lived. According to the 2019 Santa Clara County homeless census, 81 percent of people experiencing homelessness lived in the county prior to homelessness.
Jan Bernstein-Chargin, vice chair of the Gilroy Compassion Center, said the advocacy groups needed people who would be present at meetings where decisions about homeless services and affordable housing are made.
Chargin said even if people say they are in support of affordable or supportive housing developments, when it comes time to build projects in those neighborhoods it is difficult to garner support.
“800 people in a community meeting will come up and say this is a great idea—just not here,” said Chargin. “What we need is 800 people to show up and say this is a great idea.”
“The hardest thing to find is the word ‘Yes,’ and that’s where the community needs to organize.”