Hundreds turn out for free hot holiday meal in San Jose

The homeless crisis in the South Bay is often seen only in parts – with encampments and people dispersed across various areas.

On Wednesday, a Thanksgiving meal program in San Jose helped bring the sheer scope of the issue into the public eye, with the line extended halfway down a city block.

Those awaiting the hot meals shared various stories of being unhoused, including some living on the streets, in tents, or campers.

"It is a good thing for everybody to come out here and actually have a good meal, you know," said Anthony Holmes, who is unhoused.


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Gelia Archibald said, "I am really appreciative. I mean without it we would have nothing. Basically, we have no cooking facilities to cook. It is hard, it is hard out here."

The event was held in St. James Park and sponsored by the outreach group Opening Doors 2020 with some grant funding from the City of San Jose.

"They get one hot meal. It is not a grocery bag, but it is a real genuine hot meal like you would get in a restaurant with all the fixings, meats, proteins," said David Hernandez, executive director of Opening Doors 2020.

Even well after the noon start of the meal service, the line continued to grow, stretching along North 2nd Street between East St. James and East St. John streets as more people arrived.

The size of the line puts a unique visual perspective on a problem which is often hidden out of public view.

Mayor Matt Mahan emphasized that the city needs to do more to address homelessness.

"We need affordable housing, but if we are going to end homelessness in our lifetimes, it is going to be because we expand basic, dignified shelter for those who need it, inpatient treatment centers, and that we get people indoors and connected to those supportive services," Mahan said.

In addition to the hot turkey with all the trimmings, local outreach groups used the event as an opportunity to connect those experiencing homelessness with local resources.

"It makes me feel good that someone out here does care for us," said Archibald.