San Jose

A Gateway to Services: ‘The Window' in San Jose Provides Hope for the Homeless

It's no secret homeless people can use a helping hand.

Some organizations do just that by donating food. Others provide shelter. But what about a need that's often overlooked ⁠— mail?

"How do you rebuild your life?" said Sharon Miller, who serves as director of social ministry for Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph and Catholic Charities of Santa Clara. "How do you look for a job if you don't have a mailing address?"

"The Window" is filling that void for San Jose's homeless community.

"The Window really is the gateway to services for the homeless – those in transition, those rebuilding their lives," Miller said.

Miller has been with The Window since it's inception almost four decades ago. It was created by the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph after realizing San Jose's homeless community needed a place to receive mail in order to get back on their feet. In 2017, the program moved to it's current location at 195 E. San Fernando Street after teaming up with Catholic Charities. 

'The Window' provides a sense of hope, of compassion, a sense of connecting with someone at a level where they're just at a point of excessive trauma," Miller said. "We're here for those individuals to listen to them and help them navigate and to rebuild their lives."

For many in the homeless community, not having a mailing address could mean not receiving welfare checks, social security payments, veteran's benefits, affordable housing updates and letters from friends and family. 

Jennifer Gonzalez / NBC Bay Area
A staff member of "The Window" organizes the mail alphabetically for patrons. (August 29, 2019)

The Window currently has about 1,000 individuals registered, which means the small room in downtown San Jose receives a ton of mail on a daily basis. 

"We probably get about 300 to 500 piece of mail a day," Miller said. "And it takes us an hour to sort the mail and put it away and it's alphabetized." 

Aside from mail, patrons can also pick up lunch, toiletries and healthcare services. 

Jennifer Gonzalez / NBC Bay Area
"The Window' is a lifeline for many people like Billy Page who are transitioning from homelessness. Page has been a patron of "The Window" on and off since 2000. (August 29, 20119)

For many, "The Window" is a lifeline. 

"I started using the window in 2000 and then again in 2010 – it helped me out a lot," said Billy Page. "We all need resources, we all are trying to feed our families and survive."

Something as simple as a mailing address is helping the homeless community but Miller is hopeful for a time when this will no longer be needed. 

"The goal is to end homelessness," Miller said. "No one wants to be homeless, and if we could actually close 'the window' in the future that would be wonderful. However, for as long as we're needed that window will be open."

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