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Dec 03

Teamwork offers hope to the homeless

Posted on December 3, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Communications Office

Ray BramsonThanks to a recently formed Homelessness Response Team in the Housing Department, the daunting task of addressing the cause and symptoms of homelessness in San José is being met head on. 

Ray Bramson, the Homelessness Response Team Manager, ascribes the increase in homelessness to a decrease in jobs, a very competitive housing market, a stall in building affordable housing, and the loss of some key funding sources. Ray describes the dilemma, “The City doesn’t have the resources to help everyone find stable housing. And yet, it must minimize the health and safety impact to the community. It’s a very difficult balancing act at times.” 

Homeless encampment cleanups involve a number of departments: Housing, Parks, Recreation & Neighborhood Services, Environmental Services, Watershed, Public Works, Police, City Attorney’s Office, and others. Since it’s a community-wide issue, Bramson coordinates the City’s efforts by working with both public, private and nonprofit partners to reach the homeless. 

Bramson’s City team members develop the programs that provide outreach, housing and supportive services for homeless individuals and families residing in San José. One team member, Art Nino, is the community coordinator for encampments while Kelly Hemphill is another in charge of homeless outreach and services. 

Bramson and all of his team have fostered collaborative relations with outside agencies such as Santa Clara County, Destination: Home, the Housing Authority, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and others. A result of their collaboration is “Housing 1000”, a community-wide campaign to house 1,000 of the most vulnerable residents in Santa Clara County by 2015. To date, “Housing 1000” has already housed over 300 chronically homeless adults in San José alone. 

Still, with nearly 5,000 people homeless on any given night, the job’s mission really can seem insurmountable and never-ending. For Bramson and his team, focusing on the remarkable triumphs of individual clients served through their programs makes all the challenge and hard work worth it. 

One example is Mike who is deaf and, after experiencing a personal crisis, became chronically homeless for 10 years. He ended up living at St. James Park in downtown San José. Bramson’s team coordinated with the Police Department and the District 3 Office to offer services including a case worker to Mike. They were able to first transition him into a motel and then into stable long-term housing. Bramson said he could see a change in both Mike’s physical and mental state. Not only was he clean-shaven and newly clothed on the outside, but he also had a hopeful and thriving attitude emanating from the inside.

If you want to help someone who is homeless and living in an encampment, Ray has this suggestion: call the City’s Homeless Helpline at (408) 510-7600. Provide some details about the person or people in need of service including a physical description, typical location, and if the individual(s) has any physical ailments. The City’s nonprofit partners can then dispatch their trained outreach workers with offers of shelter and other supportive services. 

For more information, visit the Ending Homelessness website

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