South County Reentry Resource Center
Staff and supporters of the South County Reentry Resource Center include Vanessa Ashford of Carry the Vision (back row, from left), Sam Brown, Community Outreach Specialist Sivan Gomez, Community Worker Adrian Santos, Program Manager Juan Guevara, Stacy Quezada of the San Jose State University Service Navigation Mentoring Program (front row, from left) and Reentry Specialists Sara Salazar and Margarita Ortiz. Photo: Erik Chalhoub
music in the park san jose

Since getting out of custody, Hector Pena has landed a full-time job at a local farm and is focusing on “doing the right things” to turn his life around, he said.

Pena credits the South County Reentry Resource Center, a program operated by the Santa Clara County Office of Diversion and Reentry Services at 8425 Murray Ave. in Gilroy that provides countless services to the formerly incarcerated to get them back on their feet and help them reintegrate into society.

“It’s good to have that kind of support when you get out,” he said. “To be able to have someone support you, it’s a definite help.”

Edward, another client of the center, said he received help with his résumé and with finding housing, even being taken shopping for new clothes to help him get a job. He now works full time at a nonprofit, and was able to earn his driver’s license to be able to drive to and from work.

“They set the foundation for me,” he said of the center.

Now, the South County Reentry Resource Center hopes to serve more people.

Toward the end of 2023, the center expanded its hours to Monday through Friday, from 8am to 5pm, thanks to a recent action by the Board of Supervisors. Previously, it was only open for two full days and two half days per week while being closed on Fridays, said Program Manager Juan Guevara.

“Now we have consistency,” he said. “Clients are spreading the word that we’re open. We’ve seen almost a doubling in client flow. It’s been amazing.”

The South County Reentry Resource Center opened in San Martin in 2015 before moving to its current location in Gilroy in 2018 with limited hours.

Among the many resources offered at the center are medical and psychiatric services from a weekly mobile medical bus, case management and services provided by faith-based reentry programs, vouchers to obtain identification cards, employment information and referrals, and shelter information. 

Clients can also meet with their probation officer, work on obtaining their high school diploma, and consult with the public defender’s office to have their records expunged.

sam brown South County Reentry Resource Center
Sam Brown (second from left) chats with Margarita Ortiz (from left), Vanessa Ashford and Sivan Gomez during a recent Friday afternoon at the South County Reentry Resource Center in Gilroy. Brown is leading a number of initiatives at the center to help the formerly incarcerated reintegrate into society. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

“Law enforcement agencies are supporting our efforts to make the South County Reentry Resource Center as an alternative to incarceration, and we plan to work with Gilroy and Morgan Hill police departments and the Sheriff’s Office to have officers use the center as a safe place to link clients they arrest or cite in the community, to critical services,” said Javier Aguirre, director of the Office of Diversion and Reentry Services.

Guevara said the center has worked to create a warm and welcoming environment, as many clients stepping through the doors for the first time are often leery of it.

But they quickly learn that the crew at the center are there to help, Guevara said.

“A lot of these services help reduce recidivism rates,” he said. “It makes communities safer, because once you stabilize someone and point them in the right direction, they can thrive.”

According to the county, the Reentry Resource Centers in Gilroy and San Jose served more than 5,700 clients in over 21,000 visits during the 2022-23 fiscal year, including registering 3,000 new clients.

Sam Brown is using his experience as a client at the South County Reentry Resource Center to help those in need, including supporting the unhoused population through PitStop Outreach, a nonprofit he co-founded, as well as leading various efforts at the center.

In 2023, Brown helped facilitate “Rising,” a mural created with the support of currently and formerly incarcerated men, as well as the unhoused. 

The mural, created by artist Rolando Barron, depicts a man holding a child in the air. It was on display at the Gilroy Center for the Arts in early 2023 before moving to its permanent location at the Reentry Resource Center in San Jose.

When asked for his advice to those newly out of custody, Brown didn’t hesitate.

“Come here,” he said. “The South County Reentry Resource Center has something for everybody. You just got out of jail, male or female, please check it out. It’s only getting better.”

For information, visit, call 408.201.0690 or visit the center at 8425 Murray Ave. in Gilroy.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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