South Bay

SJ Ministry Helping Homeless Cope Through the Holiday Season

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The holidays add another emotional and physical blow to the thousands struggling with homelessness here in the Bay Area. For many, it’s not about whether they can celebrate but whether they’ll even survive.

A San Jose ministry is doing what it can to help those who will spend the holiday on the street, including people who live in encampments along Coyote Creek.

They experience not only the emotional and physical stress of finding shelter but also finding a way to protect themselves from the rain and cold.

The homeless encampment near Roosevelt Park in San Jose is a tough place to find holiday cheer. Greg Lekarra lives in a tent and says the holidays make some depressed to the point of being suicidal.

"All we can do is pray for them," Lekarra said. "Like I said, it’s bad. It's kind of embarrassing being homeless, in a sense; a lot of struggling. I do what I can."

Pastor Scott Wagers and his volunteers at CHAM Ministries do what they can to help. On Monday, they packed their huge RV, dubbed the Mercy Mobile, with donations and drove to Roosevelt Park, one of many destinations during the holidays.

They handed out Christmas gifts geared toward survival.

"We’ve got tents, sleeping bags, lanterns, hygiene kits, blankets, anything and everything that people living out in the cold need," Wagers said.

Lekarra added: "A lot of people who are homeless are getting real sick out here. They need medical attention, and sometimes they don’t get it. Warm jackets, clothes, gloves, shirts, they can spare it, really appreciate that. Keeps us warm."

But for how long?

"It’s the Christmas season; we want to make sure everybody’s blessed," Wagers said. "We’re going to go refill this (RV) this afternoon and go do it again. But the truth is there’s never enough."

A total of 161 homeless died on South Bay streets this year, and that doesn’t include much of December, which advocates say already includes more deaths yet to be counted.

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