Frequently asked questions about Village House are below. Click each question of interest to view the answer.
Why is St Martin’s giving shelter for the un-housed?
May our guests find God’s mercy in our actions, in our mercy as a parish. We are people who help people. There could be pages written on why, but simply put, it is an act of mercy and there is a need. Our mission is to minister to people. We are generous in responding to local needs -- our annual coat drive, ongoing food collection, Vincent de Paul, and more. We give internationally, as well, as requests come our way. Now we have an opportunity to give right here in our facility, face to face with hospitality, care and love. In short, it’s a perfect fit.
How did this start? Who came up with this idea?
Again, the short answer could be Jesus when he said…. Blessed are you…. who shelter to the homeless. Centuries later we respond to a letter sent to the parishes in which Bishop McGrath asked parishes "to prioritize their facilities to shelter the homeless." The Peace and Justice Commission here at St Martin’s took it to heart and approached Father Sergio.
Is there concern about having a shelter on the same property with a school?
Good question. There are pros and cons, and the cons can easily be eliminated. First, the hours of operation (6:30 PM to 7 AM) are during non-school hours. And while students on occasion come onto the property in the evening they are with an adult or parent. We have carefully designed this program so as to eliminate any concerns BUT consider this: We are a Catholic School where the message of Jesus is taught, and now students will see that teaching in action. We are sheltering the homeless in our community. This is faith in action. What a blessing for our parish! We hope to involve the students in some way.
Why not ask 15 parishioners to house one woman for a week? Much easier from all aspects.
What a generous creative thought! And no doubt there would be more than 15 who would open their home and heart to a woman. But consider this: Being homeless one’s dignity is lost or weakened and they enter new environments or someone’s home with caution. One on one connection with a stranger is often frightening to them. They find more security in being with one another, forming community, however lose it may be. And they watch out for one another, feel freer to talk about their day, exchange information. It is hoped that those who would offer their home to a woman in need would bring that desire to help to one of the many volunteer jobs.
Are we going to do this every year – offer shelter to the unhoused?
Maybe the first question needs to be: Will our mercy extend beyond the 3 years this program has existed so far? If yes, then we certainly could do this again.
Who is responsible for the general operation of the shelter?
Members of the Peace and Justice Commission are doing the groundwork and will need many volunteers. The list on the parish website lists the jobs, both on site and off, some to be done at a designated time others at your convenience. Please read, ponder, talk with others and sign up. The list has a brief description of the job and directions for signing up.
Do the women who stay in the shelter have to meet some criteria?
Absolutely! Shelter guests will be determined by a screening/referral process only, no walk-ins will be accepted. Valley Homeless Healthcare Program will be the point of entry for referrals to the Village House Shelter Network.
- Medically fragile women at risk for death if they remain on the streets. Many will be seniors.
- Currently clean and sober for at least three months and in an active recovery program.
- No history of violence or sex offense. Each client will be checked against the Megan’s Law database.
- TB screened.
- Independent with self-care, able to manage their medications and transportation.
- Predictable, stable behavior. Valley Homeless Healthcare Program is the referring agency and will have known the client over a period of months, in many situations, and will know how the person behaves. This is an excellent way to screen out violent or unpredictable behavior, occasional substance use or impulsive actions.
The City of San Jose will provide a case manager for the 15 women. The case manager will be on-site for up to three nights each week.
What about alcohol or drug abuse, sex or violent behavior?
Each guest will have a thorough psychosocial assessment by a clinician. This means that clinical professionals will have evaluated each person’s social history, mental health and substance use history, criminal/legal history, financial situation, work and school history, family history and medical history. In addition, they are assessed on the way they handle stress, cope with problems and understand the world.
All guests will be carefully screened by Valley Homeless Healthcare Program. They must be clean and sober for at least three months, in active recovery programs and have no history of violence. Shelter guests will be determined by a screening/referral process only, no walk-ins will be accepted. Our partners will provide comprehensive services, including medical care, psychiatric care, social work case management, recovery services and a permanent plan for housing.
Each guest will be someone who has worked with homeless services consistently for months and is solidly engaged in self care. Each person will already be working with a social worker on their permanent housing plan.
Fifteen women does not seem like a lot, but what if there are walk-ins? Will they be accepted or turned away?
The Village House Network of Churches has set a limit of 15 per church. If there are walk-ins, they will be told of other places they may find shelter and safety for the night. Often they know this already.
Are the same women consistently sheltered by this program?
Our guests are generally the same as the shelter moves from one religious organization to the next; however, if one finds permanent housing, then her place is taken by another woman who has been screened. The agencies have a list of those who are eligible. There is generally a 6 month maximum for a guest staying in the program; however, these are subject to the discretion of the social workers who screen our guests.
What are the hours of operation?
Our guests will be on-site from 6:30 PM to 7:00 AM for one month, Wednesday to Wednesday, May 2nd to June 6th, 2018.
Will the guests have other services or amenities besides meals and a bed?
From the time this program began in January at Holy Spirit, services such as case management, medical, social work, recovery plan, search for housing were started. Insofar as possible, these will be continued by the same county caseworker and not staff from our parish. These services are during the day at the office of the provider or agency, not on our property.
Where will guests go during the day?
Several other churches may open their facilities during the day, and the Bascom Community Center is not far. The women may have medical or case worker appointments during the day.
What about security?
While we do not anticipate any issues, we will be prepared. Keep in mind that most of our guests have previously been at other participating organizations in the Village House program and they know the rules. The San Jose Police Dept (SJPD) knows that we are giving hospitality and will be close by in case of emergency. Case workers are on call. Parish volunteers will be regularly walking the property to ensure all is well.
Are there rules?
Of course, and they detail the procedures to be followed while on our property. It includes the schedule, responsibilities and where to go with questions. These will be published on the program’s website.
What if the rules are not followed?
Our guests are familiar with the rules from the other church and know that breaking rules means they are not allowed to remain or return.
What about any property damage?
Other than normal wear and tear, we do not anticipate any damage. If there is major damage we have insurance to cover such costs. No significant damages were reported in the last two years this program ran at St. Martin of Tours.
Will guests be screened for drug or alcohol use?
Of course. This is among the eligibility requirements.
What about any illegal activity on our property?
Volunteers and security personnel will call the police if there is any illegal activity.
What about other problems which are not illegal?
There will be staff on site at all times and case workers are on call. If the staff cannot handle the situation the police will be called.
What about transportation to and from the shelter? How do they get here and how do they leave?
Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church has graciously agreed to offer our guests daytime shelter. We will offer transportation to the daytime center for those who wish to take advantage of it. For those that don't wish to go to the daytime center, they typically take advantage of a bus pass given by the county.
Will pets be allowed?
Will the guests sleep in a sleeping bag?
No, because we will provide each with bedding and a cot. Holy Spirit originally purchased the cots. The network now funds replacement cots and sends them to each organization in the rotation.
Are the clothes they wore during the day laundered?
Yes. Volunteers will launder clothing and bedding for our guests.
Who will be responsible for cleaning the rooms including rest rooms each day? And what about trash outside?
These areas will be cleaned by volunteers and staff and the guests themselves. It is not likely that there will be any more debris than usual.
Will background checks be done on each guest?
Each person will have a thorough psychosocial assessment by a clinician. This means that clinical professionals will have evaluated each person’s social history, mental health and substance use history, criminal/legal history, financial situation, work and school history, family history and medical history. In addition, they are assessed on the way they handle stress, cope with problems and understand the world. In addition, the referring agency will have known the client over a period of months, in many situations, and will know how the person behaves. This is an excellent way to screen out violent or unpredictable behavior, occasional substance use or impulsiveness.
The referring agencies work with probation and parole, and know when someone is involved with the courts. In addition to this evaluation, we will be checking each client against the Megan’s Law database to confirm they are not a sex offender. The clients will not be fingerprinted.
How much is this costing us to have this shelter? Do you need cash donations?
Despite this being such an involved program, the costs to the parish are quite reasonable and - so far - have been adequately covered by free-will donations made each year. For this project, time and talent are the greatest need and that means volunteers, each of whom is a fit for the task that needs doing. That being said, there will be a collection after one of the Masses. Other donations may be made at any time by writing a check to St. Martin of Tours and annotating it for Village House.
Our costs are low because volunteers are doing the work. We will ask for in kind donations of supplies or the money to purchase them. Meals are donated.
In 2017, the cost of the shower truck was underwritten by the City of San Jose. For 2018, the YMCA has graciously offered to provide memberships to Village House guests. This includes the ability for the guests to take showers at any YMCA facility in the city. This means that we will not need to have a physical shower unit. We will continue to explore the possibility of a grant for a shower unit.
I have some things to donate to the shelter. Where can I bring them? Who do I talk with? Do I get a receipt?
We must be very selective what we take as donations of items, especially clothing. Hence we can only take what the guests need, can use, and can store. As planning continues there will be a list of needs on our website and/or the Sunday bulletin.
Clothing may be taken to Sacred Heart Community Center, http://sacredheartcs.org/
How can parishioners see the jobs and sign up?
Thank you for asking! We need many volunteers. There are a variety of jobs. First look at the Village House at St. Martin’s website, www.smvillagehouse.org which has all sorts of good information and a link to signup.com where you can see what the job there are.
There are qualifications for most jobs: ALL ONSITE VOLUNTEERS MUST ATTEND AN IN-PERSON TRAINING SESSION AND BE FINGERPRINTED. Training dates are listed on the web site's home page.
Can I bring my children to help?
High school students may volunteer but must be accompanied by an adult. Volunteers with children are reminded that they must supervise their children at all times.
Can non-parishioners sign up?
Absolutely. Although we know that our parish is known for its generosity and we are confident that we can fill the volunteer slots, we'd never wish to exclude anyone wanting to help!
About how many volunteers will be needed each night?
In a 12 hour period, we may need about 35 volunteers which includes those preparing food off site. 35 times 28 nights. Do the math! We need many volunteers! And usually in projects like this there are ancillary tasks yet to be identified.
To volunteer, go to the Village House at St. Martin’s website, www.smvillagehouse.org. There will also be sign-ups after Mass on several weekends.
Who do I contact with questions or concerns?
Contact Patrick O’Meara at SMOTHousing@gmail.com