CGS had the opportunity in June to host the Silicon Valley Safe Park (SVSP), joining an existing group of other churches and organizations in the South Bay that rotate hosting on a monthly basis. The experience was a blessing for both our congregation and the guests. I personally was overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity from this congregation, and we heard from the guests that they felt the same. Over 35 CGS individual/family volunteers and staff were involved, checking in on our guests, providing at least one meal every day of the month (both breakfast and dinner most days), or donating toiletries, snacks, and beverages.
The large number of volunteers helped make these services possible and made the guests feel welcome in a space that was their home for the month. One guest told us active involvement from volunteers was unique to CGS, and it went a long way towards making them feel welcomed and cared for. Guests also told us stories about CGS members taking the time to converse with them and to get to know them. We had a cooler outside with beverages, and one of the guests told us that on hot days, some CGS volunteers would move drinks from the cooler to the fridge, put new cold beverages in the cooler, and then come back to switch them again. These little acts of kindness and consideration on top of everything else really demonstrated to our guests that we cared about them.
For the volunteers, it was a wonderful way to stay active and engaged in our community, and gave us a strong sense of purpose during a time when many of us feel untethered by the lack of our usual activities and commitments. CGS folks had the pleasure of getting to know some of the guests (in person!), and to hear their stories. Some of them work odd hours or long hours, some of them are unemployed, and some of them are students. They have pets and extended families they care deeply about. They still faced many stressful challenges in their day-to-day lives, including trying to figure out where to shower, how to stay cool on 90+ degree days, and where to do laundry.
We also learned some lessons and gained some more insight that we will use to make October an even greater success. Pastor Manda, Sarah Janigian, Kevin and I will be discussing what we learned in June, and what changes we might make for October (which we assume will be similar to June in terms of the pandemic). If you volunteered and have suggestions for us, let us know! If you didn’t volunteer, and have suggestions for us, we want to hear from you, too! It was really wonderful to have so many of you at CGS involved, and we look forward to working with you all again in just a few months!
CGS will be hosting the Safe Car Park program throughout the month of June in our parking lot. Due to COVID-19, we will be taking extra precautions, and offering more limited services to our guests than we otherwise would. We now have a more detailed sign up available at the links below to volunteer or donate food/toiletry items. Thank you to those who have already expressed interest in helping!!
We need volunteers (1) checking in on/swinging by the parking lot twice per day (maintaining social distance), and (2) providing and delivering breakfast or dinner.
Checking in on the site is to make sure everything appears safe, and there are no emergencies - you can do this from a distance as you walk or drive past. If you feel comfortable, we welcome you to chat with guests, find out how they are doing, and make them feel welcome.
Providing meals could include preparing the meal (Click HERE for information from Santa Clara County on safe food handling), getting take-out, ordering delivery, etc. We do not need to provide breakfast/dinner every day, just on days when people are available
We are collecting non-perishable food items, beverages, and toiletries to distribute to guests.
You may bring your items to church (place in designated area in the Narthex), or you can request that one of us pick up the items from outside your home. Please indicate in the "comment" field on the sign up sheet whether you will bring the items to church, or if you would like someone to pick them up.
Please reach out to Rachel Visscher (email@example.com), Kevin Visscher (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Sarah Janigian (email@example.com) with any questions, or if you would like assistance signing up.
by Sarah Janigian
CGS will host the Safe Car Park program during the month of June. The Silicon Valley Safe Carpark network, of which we are a part of, needed to find a host group for that month. Our team decided that we could be ready to go.
The program has continued to operate during the COVID-19 restrictions with limitations. The faith communities who have hosted since the shelter-in-place order provide space for parking, make arrangements for bathroom facilities, and have very limited contact with the guests. There is no extra hospitality provided such as community meals, rooms available for gathering, etc.
We don’t know what will be happening in June regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. We do know that these unhoused guests will continue to need a place to stay, and hopefully many will be back to work. We have the space and means to help without jeopardizing the health and safety of our members and community.
Volunteers will be needed to help with the daily check-in/check-out process, and provide some packaged food and toiletries that will be left for the guests’ use. If you are able to help, please go to the sign-up form online, found here.
Our church community has always been welcoming, and opened our doors to those who need us. Our participation in the Silicon Valley Safe Carpark network is another example of our commitment to serving the community, and remembering that we are all children of God.
Please let us know if you can help.
Sarah Janigian firstname.lastname@example.org
Chelsea Byom email@example.com
Kevin Visscher firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel Visscher email@example.com
Pastor Manda firstname.lastname@example.org
by Sarah Janigian
Our congregation is participating in Silicon Valley Safe Parking (SVSP), providing people who are living in their cars a safe place to sleep at night. More than one year ago the church council approved CGS’s involvement. Pastor Manda and a group of members have been attending meetings and working with faith communities in the West Valley/Saratoga area who have successfully been sponsoring safe and legal parking areas for homeless guests to sleep in their cars overnight. (Check out the Christian Century – January 15, 2020 issue. The Rotating Safe Car Park program in West Valley /Saratoga area was a feature article.)
Silicon Valley Safe Parking is a partnership of nine faith communities and Bellarmine College Prep, with locations in the central San Jose area. All have agreed to host for one month, up to two times per year. As a host site, we provide a safe parking space, bathrooms and trash/recycling for the guests. Host sites are then able to choose additional hospitality: phone charging stations, hospitality room, snacks, meals, etc.
Silicon Valley Safe Parking will work with Amigos de Guadalupe – Center for Justice and Empowerment to screen the applicants for the program and provide us with our guests. SVSP has also determined a set of criteria that our guests must adhere to. All guests must have a valid driver’s license and a working vehicle that is registered and insured. SVCP has other criteria for hosting guests, including no drugs or alcohol, no smoking in cars, and no open flames or cooking in the parking lot. We will also be registered with the City of San Jose, and Police and Fire Departments will be notified. All those agencies have been very supportive of the Safe Car Park program.
It will take our village to make this work. CGS’s month for hosting is October, 2020. Volunteers will be needed throughout the entire month. Daily shifts, 7:00 am – 8:00 am in the morning and 8:00 pm – 9:00 pm in the evening, will need to be staffed. As part of the program, we will host a weekly meal and provide snacks as needed.
An informational meeting will be held on Sunday, February 23rd, after church, in the Fireside Room. A light lunch will be provided.
For more information and to volunteer, contact Sarah Janigian, Chelsea Byom, Rachel Visscher, or Kevin Visscher. You can find their contact information in Breeze or by calling the church office.