Homeless advocates claim victory in San Jose

Homeless and homeless advocates are claiming victory Thursday after they said the City of San Jose has backed down on a controversial crackdown to feed the homeless at a downtown park.

A city spokeswoman said they want to focus more on educating the homeless on how to get help and educating the public on the concerns with feeding the homeless before enforcing the ordinance.
It’s a random act of kindness from Brandon Gillian who had leftovers from work. He decided to feed those less fortunate at St. James Park in San Jose Thursday night.

“I understand living out here in San Jose is very difficult,” said Gillian. “It's very hard. It's very expensive. The quality of life for everybody is not equal.”

It’s food 57-year-old Lavelle Moore on, yet it's an act that's stirred up controversy.

Last month, the City of San Jose, driven by residents complaining about litter and trash, considered issuing citations tentatively in early August. The city was planning to enforce a 2005 ordinance prohibiting food distribution. The plan drew outrage. On Wednesday, homeless advocates said the city told them they're now backing down.

“Right now it's off the table so anyone who comes to feed can continue to feed and be free of fear they may get citied,” said Homeless Advocate Robert Aguirre.

A spokeswoman for the City of San Jose points to eight soup kitchens in downtown, four within walking distance of St. James Park. She said the city is focusing on education rather than enforcement at this time.

“We are not here to issue citations unnecessarily,” said City of San Jose Spokeswoman Cheryl Wessling. “We're here to get the community to work together.”

“I appreciate that the city is willing to be reasonable,” said Pastor Scott Wagers of CHAM Deliverance Ministries. “We are reaffirming their dignity and their humanity. We are reaffirming the church's right to take care of the poor.”

Advocates point to strong opposition from church groups and hardships for disabled homeless individuals to get to soup kitchens.

Gilbert Chacon works downtown and has mixed emotions. He said he’s a little disappointed the city is backing down given few families are ever at the park.

“They have to put a stop to it,” said Chacon. “I know it's hard for them but they do have to stop because they are giving them free reign.”

Homeless addvocates are pushing for a piece of land or property downtown where they can get a permit to serve food. In the meantime, advocates say they're willing to start a program to help clean up trash at the park.