Several hundred homeless people lined up on Christmas Eve morning in front of volunteers, advocates and food trucks for a little warmth before planning to brave the cold later in the night in San Jose.
In what’s been an ongoing event for six years at St. James Park every Christmas, locals gathered to give clothing, blankets, food and other supplies to homeless people.
Nassim Nouri, 55, came to volunteer and hand out food, hoping to uplift those who might need it.
But seeing the line of hungry people meant “that just reflects altogether how much we have failed them,” she said, blaming the housing crisis for homeless hardship in the county.
“I wish there was no one here who needed help from neighbors.”
But there were plenty of people waiting in line anyway.
“They don’t have anybody else to protect them, so it’s up to us —community members, neighbors — to shape up and do something.”
And for that, many were grateful.
Ed Ortega, a 58-year-old homeless San Jose resident, said:
“I came out here to eat some food. … Good food.”
Ortega said he’s been homeless since 2016, between the streets and a couple of cars. Tuesday afternoon, he was deep in a plate of meatballs, vegetables and cornbread.
He was a cook for several years at San Jose Mineta International Airport before he went homeless, he said.
While he was homeless, he met Elizabeth Henriques, also a homeless San Jose resident.
Henriques, 53, said she and Ortega are both graduates of a local addiction recovery program. She was working for Google and trying to overcome addiction when she went homeless, she said.
Now, together, they live in her car. Christmas Day, the two of them plan to have found refuge, parking at a park and sleeping in the cold.
Low temperatures overnight around San Jose are expected to be in the low 40s with the possibility of rain, according to the National Weather Service.
“I appreciate everybody in this park. They didn’t have to do this. … They found it in their hearts to do something. That’s a very merry Christmas.”
Henriques said that seeing friendly faces in the park willing to help:
“…. it makes you feel good.”