VIDEO: Despite crackdown, church groups still feed homeless in downtown San Jose park

 

SAN JOSE (KRON) — Despite the looming crackdown on feeding the homeless in a downtown San Jose park, church groups were doing just that again on Friday.

The City of San Jose is planning on enforcing an existing city ordinance that says you can’t serve food in St. James Park without a permit. But church groups say they’ve been feeding the homeless that frequent the park for decades and have no plans to stop.

Pastor Scott Wagers of CHAM Deliverance Ministries addressed a group of volunteers on Friday before they fanned out into St. James Park, handing out granola bars, fruit, and water to the homeless in defiance of looming action to put a stop to the practice.

“What we’re saying is that we have an inherent right as churches to practice our constitutional rights to ensure that homeless people get fed,” homeless advocate Pastor Scott Wagers said.

The problem is that doing so is technically illegal even though the city has not been enforcing the law.

But that may soon change amid complaints from other park users and neighbors about trash, rodents, and that the free food is attracting homeless people from all over the city.

“The first thing is that the food isn’t licensed or prepared in the appropriate manner,” San Jose Downtown Association Spokeswoman Julie Matsushima said. “Secondly, the homeless aren’t starving. They have places to eat across the city, and lastly and most importantly, it’s making an absolute mess of our park.”

A park ranger made no move to stop what the church groups labeled the “Great Granola Bar Protest.”

The city council this week discussed the expansion of a program permitting churches to house and feed the homeless at the churches.

But Pastor Wagers and other homeless advocates say the coming crackdown on handing out food is an effort to sweep the homeless from the park altogether.

“Right now, this city and other large cities are simply sweeping the homeless out of sight and out of mind, and it’s costing the taxpayers an exorbitant amount of money, and I think that is what is behind the crackdown here in St. James Park,” Wagers said.

Whether it’s at the park or elsewhere in the county, there are a lot of mouths to feed. The new numbers from the latest homeless census are out today and they are shocking.

The new numbers from the latest homeless census are out Friday, and they are shocking.

The numbers show an 185-percent increase over the last county in 2015 in the number of people under the age of 25 who are homeless.

Out of 7,394 homeless counted, 2,530 are either minors unaccompanied by a parent or an adult younger than 25 years old.

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