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Meeting the Needs of the Homeless How We Can All Help Perales said he’d like to see more homeowners rent out their in-law’s quar- ters—a great way to help homeless people who are plugged in to the County’s system and support services and ready to transition into housing. The Compassion Center would like a piece of land to provide longer-term camping and RV facilities. The current program—which allows homeless individuals and families to camp safely and legally at Coyote Lake, Hollister Hills, San Luis Reservoir, and Mt. Madonna Park—requires campers to pack up and move every two weeks. From time to time, the Compassion Center posts its wishlist on Facebook. Perales noted that when people shop online, using Amazon Smile lets them designate their nonprofit of choice, and Amazon donates a portion of the sale to that nonprofit. “Imagine the impact if everyone took that simple step,” Perales said. Currently GCC employs two case managers working a total of 50 hours per week funded by a $45,000 grant. Perales volunteers as part of GCC’s working board, but he noted that a funded full-time executive director position is needed. “We rely on grants, and grantors want nonprofits to have a leadership structure in place. They want to know if you’re going to be around tomorrow.” He refers to Board Chair Jan Bernstein Chargin as “an angel” whose belief in the mission of the Center runs deep and who has taught him a lot about persevering. “In any given month we see 3,000 people,” Perales said. “Some are educated, some not. Families with children. College students. Some enter our doors in despair. Seeing them get a hot meal, a tent to camp in, an apartment for their family…I want to challenge our community to respond to the need.” To those who assume that helping the homeless is enabling dysfunction, Perales says, “research has proven that having a roof over your head, a home base, it’s the stability you need before you can deal with other aspects of life. Without a home, you have no address. How can you get an ID card, how can you apply for a job, how can you collect your social security or VA benefits? It’s daunting.” The need for food, hygiene products, clothing, backpacks, blankets, sleeping bags and tents is ongoing. Volunteers are always in demand. Public and private donations are essential to sustain effective programs for transitional housing, health and mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, employment assistance, emergency rent and utility assistance, and more. Be Informed Attend public meetings, speak with local and county government and school offi cials, community service clubs and faith-based organizations engaged in efforts to end homelessness. Follow Your Passion Consider choosing one cause or or- ganization that touches your heart or demonstrates the greatest need. Look for one with a clear and focused mission. Ask them what they need. Volunteer Your sustained involvement with a nonprofi t makes you a better advocate and supporter, and makes that nonprofi t stronger and more stable. Donate Forego a gift, vacation, or holiday party. Donate the money you would have spent to end homelessness instead. Donate in the name of your family. Advocate Use campaigns, fundraisers, and social media to shape a positive and produc- tive conversation around solutions to end homelessness. Gofundme and other online platforms are a powerful tool for grassroots fundraising efforts. Make It Personal Pick fi ve people you keep in touch with regularly. When you gather at your favorite gym, café, school, neighborhood clubhouse, or place of worship, make it a point to share news, ideas, and prog- ress in the mission to end homelessness. Enthusiasm is contagious. Make It Part Of Your Legacy Make it part of your annual giving. Let your children and grandchildren know what you’re doing to help end homeless- ness and encourage them to get involved in their own spheres of infl uence. Graphic Courtesy of Santa Clara County GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2018 33