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Shelter and Advocacy GILROY COMPASSION CENTER Jan Bernstein Chargin is Director of Public Information at Gavilan Community College and Chair of the Board of Directors for Gilroy Compassion Center. Chargin is a powerful advocate for the homeless who experienced a bout of homeless- ness herself as a young adult. “People in the community often JAN CHARGIN don’t realize it when they come in contact with someone who is home- less. It could be a store clerk living in an encampment or a college student living out of a car. They’re not comfortable talking about it.” Over the past six years, Jan has been a driving force behind the South County Homeless Outreach Task Force, and the Gilroy Compassion Center, a day center for the homeless where she serves as board chair. “The Compassion Center provides an immediate response to the need for food, clothing, bathroom facilities, mail service, internet access, referrals to County services, job training and transportation to doctor’s appointments. Above all, an experience of being treated with dignity. Our clients often stay on as volunteers at the shelter because of this experience.” In 2015, the Compassion Center served more than 600 people, about 90 percent of whom Jan said are South County natives. “Their roots are here. They may have family in the area who want to help but don’t have the means to do so. They need community services to get back on their feet.” Jan added that Gilroy Compassion Center is currently looking for a new home itself. “We have clients. We know how to help them. We have funds to help them. But there’s some resistance to us acquiring new space. We want the community’s support behind our work to provide day services to the homeless.” An innovative group of San José State University students is currently building a mobile shower and laundry unit for Compassion Center. “Given the current shortage of affordable housing, our cities need to consider making land available and offering non- traditional housing options. This might include safe parking spaces and staffed campgrounds with access to services, public transportation and jobs.” Jan is also a board member of Destination: Home, a member of the Gilroy Advisory Housing Committee, and a facilitator for the Gilroy Housing Task Force. “Once a person is homeless, the barriers to rehousing are enormous. It’s a landlord’s market. Renters typically must show proof of stable income at three times the monthly rent and provide references from a previous landlord or they won’t even make it onto the landlord’s waiting list. If a renter misses a payment, eviction is a real threat. Even with jobs, many can’t afford the County’s rising rents.” Private landowners in Gilroy and Morgan Hill want to work with us on several options for housing the homeless. We need to make it happen. There are zoning, permitting and impact fees involved. We would welcome help from people who can help us work through these issues. Tiny Homes: It Takes a Village Jan Chargin is part of a collaborative effort to develop a tiny homes village in South County. Reid Lerner, Weston Miles Architects and Bill Wyrick of Los Banos RV assisted with tiny home architecture and design concepts while John Taft of RJ Dyer Properties has been assisting with property search and guidance on development efforts. “The tiny home concept was designed with wheels,” Jan said. “It’s a small, self-contained unit with a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. The idea is to develop a small community of these tiny homes in cul-de-sacs surrounding a staffed service center. We responded to a Request for Proposal and won a contract with the County to provide a proposal based on our concept. We wouldn’t be the first to do this. Tiny homes villages have been successfully developed in other states.” According to John Taft, “Tiny homes have the potential to provide a longer-term permanent housing solution. Having a locally-based tiny homes village with periodic and permanent services would be more cost- effective than asking the homeless to travel from South County to San Jose for services, and there’s more accountability built into the system. If the county approves our proposal, we’ll move forward with development. We’re looking to develop two villages; one in Gilroy and one in San Jose.” Tiny homes village — an emerging concept. GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JULY / AUGUST 2016 gmhtoday.com 27