South Bay Church Opening Up Its Parking Lot for Homeless Families - NBC Bay Area
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South Bay Church Opening Up Its Parking Lot for Homeless Families

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    FamiliesA South Bay church is opening up its parking lot to homeless families who have been spending nights sleeping in their cars. Damian Trujillo reports. (Published Monday, Feb. 29, 2016)

    A South Bay church is opening up its parking lot to homeless families who have been spending nights sleeping in their cars.

    The families face almost constant harassment from police and business owners, telling them they need to move on. St. John Vianney Church in San Jose said such treatment is unacceptable and on Tuesday will open its parking lot to those families.

    "For me it's no problem," said Javier Rivera, a formerly homeless person living in Morgan Hill. "I live under a bridge. But for my kids, it's a lot of problem."

    Rivera works six days a week to help feed his family. He said it tore him apart when he had to tell his children last year that a rent increase would force them to live out of the family car.

    Channing Avenue in San Jose is notorious for the number of families who live in their cars or RVs.

    Minnie Thai, who owns a flower mart nearby, sees homeless children in the area all the time.

    "That makes my heart feel really bad," Thai said. "What can I do?"

    Thai said homeless families often siphon gas out of the company and customer cars. The business owner also said the homeless families steal electricity by running power cords across the street to her building.

    "I love the people. I understand the need, but there's got to be somewhere else they can stay," Thai said.

    St. John Vianney in response will allow homeless families living in their vehicles to use its parking lot.

    "We are offering them a light dinner in here," said Darby Cunning with St. John Vianney. "A few hours in here where they can relax or their children might do some schoolwork."

    The bishop challenged every church in the San Jose diocese to come up with a similar plan and most have responded.

    St. John Vianney staff will screen families and have their backgrounds checked to make sure everyone is safe at the church. Families will also be required to register for the program, which will last until April.

    Church volunteers are also being trained on how to help the homeless during their stay.

    There will also be no drugs or alcohol allowed in the parking lot, church officials said.

    Thai said she wants to donate flowers to the diocese as a thank you.

    "I think it's amazing," Thai said of the church's efforts to help homeless families.

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