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ADDRESSING HOMELESSNESS: PART THREE Life Without A Home Written By Robin Shepherd May we see in every homeless person a unique human being; someone’s parent, child, sibling, cousin or neighbor, a former teacher, co-worker or fellow veteran. Someone trying to survive in a world that can overwhelm. A s we prepare for the fall and winter weather, more than 7,000 people in Santa Clara County are living without shelter. Nearly 150 homeless people died on our streets in 2017. Collectively, we have the power to overcome the problem of homelessness in our communities. We need the collective will to make it happen. For this third and final installment in our series on homelessness, TODAY spoke with John Perales, Executive Director of Gilroy Compassion Center (GCC). As a career educator, he has seen the negative impact of homelessness on our youth and that experience has fueled his passion to end homelessness in South County. gmh Asking What If…Working Toward Answers During his own high school days, Perales wondered why there was so much poverty and pain in the world. One of his teachers said it was because people hoard their wealth and talents. “I remember being stunned by his comment,” Perales said. “Over the years I’ve learned that not everyone has empathy for the homeless. “When I started volunteering at Gilroy Compassion Center, I saw how some members of society view the homeless as lesser than the rest of us. I get it. People are afraid. Me, I try to get to know them and look for ways to help. It can start with something as simple as a hug. “The people of South County can make a difference. What if everyone donated $35 a month, a week’s worth of coffee at Starbucks? That $35 would buy someone a warm bed, a shower, a decent meal, and case man- agement services. We need to make helping the homeless a priority. According to Perales, in August alone, GCC housed 17 people. “It takes maybe fifteen or twenty years to develop affordable housing. The County’s Section 8 vouchers are available, but forty percent of Gilroyans don’t make enough money to qualify for low-income housing. There’s some- thing wrong with this picture.” Photo: Gilroy Compassion Center Executive Director John Perales with Anthony 32 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2018 Dimas-Jessen “When I met Anthony, a 39-year-old home- less man, he was living on the street and camping illegally at the time. He told me of his struggles with mental health. It be- gan when he was in Fifth Grade, and he came home after school to find his mother dead. We brought Anthony into our Almost Home program, which has allowed him to camp safely and legally. He was in awe at being able to camp in a be ]]Y[\[[Y]YHٙHY]ˈ›YY][۞Kx&\[XY [[[\[ˈH[]]H[B\\[ۈ[\X[Y[[ܙ[^[\\Z\K[[[]ܛ\HX\ˈ\^\\XKB^Y\X[[\[[܈]x&\˜Y[ۈHZ][\܈YX\ˈx&]B[YY][ۛ[۞Kx&\[[X^[[]YX[&\[XYHݙ[H\YYH[H[YK'