Advocates seek attention for homelessness in Bay Area By Kylie Gallegos and Destiny Holliman

More than 850 people seek shelter a night at LifeMoves, which provides refuge for those without a place to go. One-third of those seeking shelter are children, and one-fifth are veterans.

In the Bay Area, LifeMoves is one of the largest non-profit organizations dedicated to stopping the cycle of homelessness and helping those who are homeless survive day-by-day.

Homelessness is a big issue that affects San Jose. Even though it is a common occurrence, individuals without a home are commonly dehumanized, not realizing that many times it's not their fault.

In an interview with Angel Barragan, an Expeditions teacher who teaches Human Rights and Ethnic Studies at Summit Public Schools, he said that it is important to talk about homelessness since many people often think of those who are homeless as people who are ruining the community or people who ruined their own life.

Annual Fund Manager of LifeMoves Shelby Dobrenz stated in an email that, as an organization, they recognize two main causes of homelessness: structural issues like the lack of affordable housing in San Jose and individual issues like substance abuse and mental illness.

In San Jose, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,460 and, even with income from multiple jobs, many people live in a state of financial insecurity. “One unexpected bill, even something as simple as a broken bone or a flat tire, can easily lead to a missed rent payment and a quick downward spiral into homelessness,” Ms. Dobrenz stated.

Along with the cost of living, there are also personal reasons as to why homelessness does happen, such as mental illnesses and substance abuse.

Many of the clients of Life Moves struggle with mental illness and substance abuse. Ms. Dobrenz said, “Most of our clients simply didn’t win the ‘Parent Lottery’.” She further explained how many people in our society struggle with anxiety or depression at some point throughout their lives and how these illnesses can quickly become damaging for those without a strong support system or access to help early on.

LifeMoves’ goal is to provide support services for homeless families and individuals in order to return quickly to stable housing and achieve long term self-sufficiency.

In San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, there are 17 operating LifeMoves shelters that offer safe and clean living spaces, food, counseling, and mental health support services. They also offer therapeutic childcare, after-school activities, and job and housing search assistance to all of their clients.

Since there is a maximum capacity for specific LifeMoves locations, Ms. Dobrez did state that “we do not turn anybody away from our drop-in center in Palo Alto, and we service the wider unsheltered population through Outreach services both in the field and through local schools and hospitals.”

As of last year, a total of 2,086 individuals who were provided shelter from Life Moves managed to return to self-supported and stable housing.

Here's a selection of photos that LifeMoves staff submitted to show their work:

Ms. Dobrenz stated that “overall, public sentiment around wanting to address the crisis of homelessness in the Bay Area is growing.”

There are many ways to help solve the homeless crisis in the Bay Area. The first step is to acknowledge that is an issue that is occurring.

Mr. Barragan said, “I want to make sure that when a student sees a homeless person outside or reads about homelessness or a law that is passing that affects homelessness in a negative way that they can’t just pretend that they didn’t see it, and they are more likely to step up and speak out about something that is necessary to promote equality amongst all people.”

The whole purpose of why Mr. Barragan teaches his classes about major issues occurring in the world, and more locally like in the Bay Area, is to bring awareness to them and get others to care about them or at least acknowledge that it is happening.

Homelessness will not just end in one night. Ms. Dobrenz explained, “We will only be able to make meaningful strides towards a solution when public institutions, private organizations, non-profits, and individuals within the community begin to work towards the same goal. “

There has been a slight positive change in public opinion when it comes to homelessness. The public sentiment around wanting to address the crisis of homelessness in the Bay Area is growing.

Tahoma junior Jasmine Lewis is one example of someone who has witnessed the problem. She stated in a text that she does agree that homelessness is an issue in the Bay Area, especially since she sees it when she walks home and that “people should do a lot more to help them rather than judging them.”