2017 Village House Rotating Shelter at Holy Spirit Parish
Frequency Asked Questions
Last updated 12/23/16
Why is Holy Spirit Parish opening an Emergency Shelter?
Are there other rotating shelters in operations?
Why have an Emergency Shelter at a church with a school on campus?
Why aren’t more Catholic Churches participating?
Why aren’t your parishioners willing to host these people in their homes?
Will Holy Spirit open this Shelter next year?
Who is responsible for Shelter Operations?
What qualifications do people need to meet to stay at the rotating winter shelter?
Are you screening for alcohol abuse, drug use, sex offenders, and violent behavior?
How many guests do you have each night?
Is there a maximum number of nights a guest can stay?
What are the hours of operation?
What kinds of services will guests have access at the shelter?
Why have you chosen to use the Church and Parish Office versus the Parish Hall?
Where will the guests go during the day?
SECURITY & CLEANILESS
What kind of security will there be on site?
What are Holy Spirit School’s normal security protocols?
What are the rules for the guests?
How will you ensure the guests will obey the rules?
How will you ensure the Holy Spirit Parish property is not damaged?
Do you turn anyone away for drug use or other illicit activity?
How do you handle illegal activity on the site?
What structure do you have in place to deal with problems or issues?
How will you handle non-qualified homeless who show up wanting food and shelter?
Is there transportation to and from the shelter for those that don’t have a car?
Why are you transporting homeless into Almaden Valley?
Do you accept pets?
Do guests need their own sleeping bag, or do you provide a bed?
What is the plan for keeping the church and parish office clean?
How will the guests be background checked?
FINANCING & DONATIONS
How are you paying to run this shelter?
Is the City or County giving you any money to run this shelter?
I have blankets, clothing, food, and toys that I would like to donate to the rotating shelter. Who do I talk to about that and where can I donate them?
HOW CAN I HELP?
How can I help?
How can parishioners sign up to volunteer?
How can non-parishioners sign up to volunteer?
How many volunteers per night does the rotating shelter usually have?
Is there any training for volunteers?
We are doing this for four reasons.
- There are over 7,000 homeless in the county and 4,000 on any given night in San Jose. While larger plans are in motion at the City and County for a longer term solution to the lack of shelter, there is a need for a short term solution. Last winter Holy Spirit and three other churches opened their doors to 15 homeless women providing them with shelter, meals, compassion and love. The impact on our guests was moving, but even more so on our parish. Last January, over 600 volunteers helped with the shelter project. While the number of women we sheltered was only 15, if every faith community in the County took 15, and there are over 300 places of worship, it would make a huge impact on the homeless challenge right here where we live.
- At the end of the shelter last winter, some of the women had indeed found employment or another form of housing. Others, unfortunately faced returning to life on the street. While the shelter rotated the women from church to church each month last winter, the need for a permanent 12 month rotating shelter became evident. The San Jose City Council, recognizing the importance of partnering with the religious community, this summer lifted restrictions on the permitting process for churches to provide shelter for the homeless. Holy Spirit initiated discussions with our partners from last winters on organizing a year-round shelter. We organized Village House, an Interfaith Shelter of Hope, a network of over a dozen churches to provide evening shelters and daytime warming centers for women beginning in January 2017. Holy Spirit has the role as lead church for the first year of operation for Village House.
- 1. Our parish has the ability and the passion for helping others. Over the past ten years, our parish has been focused on helping vulnerable people locally, nationally and internationally. We are very blessed as a community; we are inspired to share our blessings with those in need. We have already made an impact in several communities. This shelter is an extension of the love and generosity that is driven to help those in need.
- Our faith as Catholics and Christ followers calls us to do this. Jesus said:
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Currently there is a rotating shelter operating in the northern part of Santa Clara County called Faith in Action (http://faithinactionsv.org/) that opened in March 2012. It is a year round shelter and more than 20 faith communities are involved – including St. Joseph of Cupertino and Ascension Catholic Parishes who house the homeless for one month of the year. Sacred Heart Catholic Parish in Saratoga provides meals to the shelter as well.
Last winter a number of churches opened their doors to the homeless. Several churches opened their parking lots in the evening for those with vehicles to park overnight in a safe and secure facility, providing food and clean restrooms every evening.
Holy Spirit School is one of the safest campuses in the Diocesan school system and it has the ability to secure the school grounds and buildings with fences and lockdowns. The Church and Parish Office are separate from the school grounds and provide the ability to separate our guests from the school children. The guests will not be on our school campus. We have the ability to keep our children safe and still make a difference in the lives of these 15 guests.
We have the opportunity to witness to our children what the message of the Gospel is really all about. We can put our faith in action right in front of our kids. Holy Spirit school parents as well as public school parents who are parishioners have commented about the tremendous witness value this opportunity is for their children to learn compassion and caring for others and have signed up to volunteer. It is a testimony on how to live out the values of our faith as Catholics and Christians.
Last year Holy Spirit operated its shelter during the month of January without incident. Many school parents and their children participated.
Bishop McGrath of the Diocese of San José has asked all Catholic parishes to do what they are able. St. Francis Cabrini will join us to take the month of March for the rotating shelter. Sacred Heart Catholic Parish in Saratoga has pledged to assist with money and volunteers. St. Christopher Catholic Parish is covering cost to rent a shower trailer for four weeks. We have had several other parishes ask how they can help us; we are coordinating with them to support this initiative.
We have had several parishioners make an offer to do just this. Often the homeless people are not comfortable being in a home after having been on the streets for a long time. A shelter provides stable residence and food even for 30 days will allow them to focus and strategize on how to get better.
For the past few months, the Holy Spirit Social Ministries Committee has been discerning ways to help with the homelessness situation in San Jose and Santa Clara County. We have researched many ministries such as mobile food services, mobile shower services and rotating shelters. Prior to the prediction of severe weather, mobile services were moving forward most rapidly.
With the predictions of severe weather for the 2016 winter months, the committee decided that emergency winter shelters were the most urgent need. However, the standard process for obtaining permits for shelters in the City of San Jose is long, costly, and cumbersome and takes at least six months to gain approval. When the San Jose City Council voted on December 8, 2015 to lift the restrictions on the process to enable churches to serve as shelters for this winter only, the committee moved to action. The reduced restrictions are only for the winter of 2016.
The Holy Spirit Emergency Shelter will be operated by Holy Spirit Volunteers under the direction of Mike Ferrero, Holy Spirit Director of Social Ministries and a team of 15 committed volunteer leaders. This team will coordinate and manage all aspects of the Shelter Operations.
Shelter guests will be determined by a screening/referral process only. No walk-ins will be accepted. Agencies in the homeless system of care will refer shelter guests, who will then be additionally screened by trained social work staff and the Village House case manager. All 15 guests of our rotating emergency shelter will be determined through a rigorous referral and assessment process.
- Medically fragile women at risk for death if they remained 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. Catholic Charities and the referring agencies 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 impulsivity.
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 Catholic Charities and the referring providers. 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 care. Each person will already be working with a social worker on their permanent housing plan. They will be screened through a comprehensive psychosocial assessment from professionals who are trained to identify people with risk factors but who are determined to be safe.
Village House Network has decided based on available facilities to limit the number to 15 women in our church shelters.
We expect these 15 carefully selected guests to remain with us the entire time we are open unless they are placed in a more permanent housing, or they do not comply with the rules of the shelter.
The evening shelters will be open beginning January 4 every day from 7:00 pm until 7:00 am. The current schedule is:
January 4 – Feb 1 Holy Spirit Parish
February 1 – March 1 St. Martin of Tours
March 1 – April St. Francis Cabrini
April 5 – May 3 Willow Glen United Methodist
May 3 – June 7 Temple Emanu-El
June 7 – July 5 St. Julies
July 5 – August 2 Cathedral of Faith
August 2 – Sept 6 St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church
September 6 Open
October 4 Open
November 1 Open
December 6 Open
A separate schedule of daytime warming centers to compliment the evening shelters is currently being organized by Village House of additional churches.
Village House will employ a part-time case manager who will be the coordinator of services for our guests. Our community partners will provide additional case management services, medical care, psychiatric care, recovery services and a permanent plan for housing. Holy Spirit Parish will provide food, shelter and hygiene services as well as spiritual support. We will also provide internet service so they can continue job searches and other things required through case management.
Initially, the committee planned to use the Parish Hall for the cold weather shelter as a self-contained location for eating and sleeping. However, the Parish leadership felt that it would be too close with space and timing to allow setup and clean-up of the shelter each day without being disruptive to the School’s Pre-K children, who utilize much of the parish hall building. At that point, it was determined that the Church for sleeping and the Parish Office for feeding would be a much better choice from which to operate the shelter.
Almaden Episcopal Church is opening daytime warming shelter in coordination with Holy Spirit’s evening shelter and will shelter our guests during the day.
With opening of Holy Spirit Rotating Shelter there is a chance of attracting some of the general homeless population to Holy Spirit looking for assistance (who are not part of our screened 15 women). There is the concern from some neighbors, school parents, local business owners and parishioners that our shelter increases risk of crime and poses increased threat to all. Even though the probability of that or of a significant issue is low, our intent is to recognize the concerns of the broader community and do what is possible to alleviate those fears.
a) Ensure safety of our shelter guests, volunteers, neighbors, school children, school staff, and Parish staff.
b) Ensure school property, church property, and surrounding properties are not maliciously damaged.
a) 1-2 Holy Spirit volunteers on site during school drop off (6-9 am) and pickup through end of extended day care (3-6 pm)
b) 1-2 Holy Spirit volunteers on call to be available to assist (6pm to 6 am) if onsite shelter staff need assistance with incident (phone numbers to be added, might need phone for person/s on call)
c) Volunteers act as HS Watch Program and report any suspicious activity to 311 or 911 as necessary
d) SJPD will be notified of our intent to open HS shelter and we will ask for increased patrols in our area
e) Engage those looking for assistance and provide 211 card. If person is in distress muster appropriate resources to provide for their safety.
Volunteers will need use judgment in determining appropriate response to unwanted visitors to Holy Spirit Church and School Property.
Remember safety of all involved is primary purpose of our safety watch.
Remember your primary job is to report suspicious activities and as needed to summon professional law enforcement or medical services.
Watch teams ideally should be at least two or more volunteers. Ideally no one should approach anyone alone. If watch volunteer is alone they should enlist shelter, school personnel as needed.
If any individual acts in threatening manner or poses threat, place call to San Jose Police Emergency (408)-277-8911 or 9-1-1. Remain at safe distance and do not engage individual.
If it seems safe to approach individual and they pose no immediate threat ask their business at Holy Spirit. Explain HS shelter is filled via invitation and offer 2-1-1 number.
List will be provided of other possible options for shelter.
If individual refuses to move on after discussion, advise them you will need to call 3-1-1 and retreat to safe distance and make call to 3-1-1.
Remember being Homeless is not a crime.
That being said, loitering on school and church property can’t be allowed.
Safety vests will be provided to help identify HS watch volunteers to school parents, staff, parish staff, etc. Please also wear your Holy Spirit name tag.
On an hourly basis, HS Watch volunteers should walk perimeter of campus.
During inclement weather, one person could watch from a parked car in front of the church/office and another person in a car packed in rear parking lot. Bill Sullivan has two pairs of Motorola two-way radio walkie-talkies that can be used for communication between two volunteers.
Toilet facilities will be provided to volunteer staff. Shower trailer bathrooms will serve that purpose. Bob Fields will have keys to Parish Hall as a backup if/as needed.
HS watch staff will need to comply with school security procedures. That procedure will be provided to all HS watch volunteers.
Campus watch volunteers are not expected or requested to enter school property.
List of activities going on during the day either in the school, church, or parish hall will be provided to HS watch volunteers.
HS watch volunteers on 12 am to 6 am shift are expected to remain awake during their shift. Appropriate warming and coffee area will be provided (most likely Parish office).
Our Holy Spirit School’s normal safety procedures are:
- All visitors must come in through the front gate, sign in at the office and receive a name tag.
- The front gate will be closed at all times.
- The back rolling gate leading out to El Paseo will be locked during the school day.
- Parents and students should not prop any gates open at any time.
- If anyone notices a gate not closing properly, they should notify the office immediately.
- Students are permitted to go to the bathroom only with another student during the school day.
- If a student sees an adult on campus during school hours without a name tag on, they are to notify school staff immediately.
- I commit to use the overnight shelter every night from 630pm to 7am from (insert dates). If there is an emergency and I cannot attend I will inform and get approval from the Intake Director as soon as possible.
- I will arrive between 6:30pm and no later than 8:30 pm each evening and proceed to check- in.
- Once I arrive at the shelter, I will remain within the defined shelter boundaries until morning exit.
- I will leave the shelter no earlier than 6:00 am and no later than 7:00 am. I understand there are warming shelter(s) available during the day that are coordinating with night shelters.
- I will follow the instructions of the Shelter leaders and volunteers at all times.
- I will ask for help from the leaders of the shelter as needed.
- I will attend house meetings as scheduled to be updated on any changes or issues.
- I understand that alcohol and/or drug use during my stay is strictly forbidden, and I will not be allowed into the shelter if under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances.
- I will participate in daily chores if able and as needed, including keeping my sleeping area tidy, removing /folding sheets in am, and keeping my personal belongings in the appropriate containers.
- I understand that the cots, trunks, towels, and bedding are property of the shelter.
- I agree to remove all my belongings within five (5) days of exiting the shelter program or my items will be disposed of.
- I agree to maintain my personal hygiene at all times in respect for the community living arrangement.
- 15 women have been carefully selected to use the overnight shelter. This use of property is only for selected participants.
- I understand food is only allowed in the dining room during meal times.
- I understand Smoking is only allowed in designated areas.
- I understand no soliciting of any kind is allowed on or adjacent to the shelter.
- I will be on my best behavior at all times, respecting leaders, volunteers, peers, and personal property.
- I will respect and care for all grounds and property and will not remove any property from site that I did not bring with me, without permission of leaders.
- I understand that Village House retains the right to cancel the shelter program, either individually or in total should conditions warrant.
- I understand the shelter site shall not be used as my address for my personal use or for mail.
Here are the rules for our guests as established by the Village House Shelter Network:
Village House welcomes you to our program. In order to make this arrangement positive for all, the following are policies established for all guests. Please read the following and acknowledge your agreement to abide by these policies at all times while on the shelter property.
Our guests will be familiar with other shelter rules and how things operate. They will know that breaking any of the rules may result in not being allowed to return to the shelter.
The guests will be welcomed by a group of volunteers through the parish office garage each evening. They will be welcomed to the parish office for a shower, a meal and then escorted to the Church for the night. The guests will not have in and out privileges. In the morning, the guests will be escorted from the church back to the parish office for breakfast and a packed lunch by another group of volunteers. The guests will not be left alone in the building at any time.
A group of volunteers will be inside the church with our guests for the entire night, and a staff of volunteers will be monitoring the church and school campus 24/7 during the month, the shelter is operational. There will also be a set of shelter rules that guests must abide by to provide additional security for the buildings. In the event of any unforeseen damage, the facility is covered by insurance, and we will be able to make a claim and have the repairs made.
Last year the parish incurred no damage to church property during the shelter operation.
We will only be receiving guests that are referred to us and adhere to the screening criteria.
The onsite volunteers and security personnel will call the police if there is any illegal activity.
We will have overnight volunteers and security and the case workers are on call. Anything that the volunteers cannot handle will be referred to the police.
Our volunteers, staff, and security personnel will refer any non-screened homeless people to 211 or Catholic Charities for options. We will provide what support for them that we are able. They will not be allowed to stay or loiter.
Most professionals who have been engaged with homeless shelters and homeless people indicate that the homeless people try very hard to stay hidden and away from situations that will attract attention. With the kind of weather predicted, it is unlikely that homeless people will linger outside in the inclement weather but will seek shelter in warming centers or other places that provide protection.
The guests will be provided with the ability to ride a bus to and from our shelter. We are also working with Almaden Episcopal Church on our transportation issues.
Although hidden, there are many homeless people are already living in Almaden Valley. It is estimated that on any given night between 150-200 homeless people are sleeping along the creeks and behind shopping centers throughout Almaden Valley. The transportation will simply make it easier for our 15 guests to get to the shelter in the evening and leave the shelter in the morning.
We will not be accepting pets.
Guests will be provided with clean clothes, slippers, bedding, cots and hygiene kits for the time they are with us in the shelter. Guests will also have a shower each night before they have dinner. Whatever personal belongings they have will be securely stored in the garage and not taken into the church.
During their stay in the church, our guests will not be sleeping in the pews. We have cots and bedding for them to use and we will use the folding chairs for them as well, not the pews. The parish has expanded its regular janitorial services to clean every morning at 6:00 am when the guests have put their cots, bedding and lockers away and are in the parish office for breakfast. The janitorial service will alert church staff to anything that will need special attention beyond standard cleaning.
Each person will have a thorough psycho-social 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 impulsivity.
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.
Existing staff and a multitude of dedicated volunteers will staff the shelter. The cost of supplies will be covered by donations and the generosity of the parishioners through our 2.5% Stewardship program. Neighboring parishes, who cannot open a shelter, at this time are providing financial support as well.
Village House Shelter Network is receiving $40,000 in grants from local government for renting a shower trailer for the first 12 months of shelter operation. The City of San Jose is also donating a part-time case-worker to help with referrals and case management.
We are not accepting donations of clothing and food for the shelter. We were overwhelmed last year by parishioner generosity. We are encouraging gift cards or direct contributions to Holy Spirit for the shelter.
Please visit the Holy Spirit website to volunteer. And please pray for our guests.
We will have a need for a large number of volunteers. We ask high school youth and adults to sign up. Children younger than high school may only volunteer with a parent or adult.
Non-parishioners can use the same web site to volunteer. The same rules apply.
During each 12-hour period we have scheduled over 50 volunteers on site as well as groups cooking meals and packing lunches at their homes or other sites.
Volunteer training will be provided by HomeFirst (http://www.homefirstscc.org/) through an agreement with Catholic Charities. There will be training for all volunteers during the week of January 4, 2016 at Holy Spirit Parish. Dates and times will be available at www.holyspiritchurch.org or by calling the Holy Spirit Parish Office at 408-997-5101 or by emailing email@example.com.
Please contact Michael Ferrero or Penny Warne at 408-997-5101 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org