as homeless protest, San Jose finds hotels for 45 ousted from

Tom Boland (
Sun, 3 May 1998 02:11:16 -0700 (PDT)
FWD    San Francisco Chronicle - Friday, May 1, 1998 - Page A23


       Maria Alicia Gaura, Chronicle Staff Write

Forty-five people facing homelessness as the lease on their San Jose
shelter was about to expire got good news yesterday -- they will be housed
instead at local motels. The Rev. Scott Wagers, whose Community Homeless
Alliance Ministry has operated the shelter since December, said city
officials stepped in at the last moment yesterday to provide help.

``The San Jose Redevelopment Agency has committed to subsidizing motel
rooms for all of our people,'' Wagers said. ``We will be moving out of our
sanctuary over the next couple of days.''

City officials declined to comment, but Wagers said the city had also
agreed to continue seeking permanent shelter for the displaced residents.
Earlier yesterday, about two dozen shelter residents and their children
packed the waiting room and hallways at the city's Housing Department,
nervously awaiting a decision as city and shelter officials met inside.

``We aren't asking for a handout, we just need a little help,'' said Nick
Jaramillo, tightly holding a small wooden cross. ``We're just waiting and
praying and hoping something will change.''

The ministry's shelter has been a problem for city officials since
November, when officials at the First Christian Church in downtown San Jose
felt compelled to open their doors to about 40 homeless people living on
the nearby streets. ``We felt the Gospels directed us to open our church,
and not let people die during El Nino,'' Wagers said.

City officials, saying the shelter violated city codes, initially responded
by threatening the church with fines of $2,500 per day if it didn't close
the homeless facility. Hurried negotiations with the city resulted in the
leasing of an abandoned warehouse for use as a temporary shelter, and a
promise of city help in finding a more permanent shelter. No permanent
shelter was found, however. The lease on the group's warehouse expires
today and the church group was told that the property has been sold.

With time almost out, and about 45 people facing no future but the streets,
Wagers demanded help from the city and threatened civil disobedience.
``We'll move back into the church if we have to,'' he said. ``We won't
accept, `there's nothing we can do.'''

The agreement was reached after about two hours of negotiations, and
residents responded with cheers and song. The families with children will
be given priority for the motel rooms, and efforts will be made to keep all
of the residents within an easy travel distance from the church, Wagers

``It's been a long journey from the streets, to the church, to the shelter
and now to motel rooms,'' Wagers said. ``But we won't have victory until we
find something permanent for them.''


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