On Monday March, 8, in honor of International Women’s Day, Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose) recognized Milpitas resident Jinky Peralta as Assembly District 25’s Woman of the Year.
“It is my honor to recognize Jinky Peralta as the 25th Assembly District’s Woman of the Year,” said Lee. “Jinky has gone above and beyond with her work with Sleeping Bags for the Homeless to provide for our unhoused during these difficult times.”
Jinky Peralta is the Founder, Executive Director, and Treasurer for Sleeping Bags for the Homeless of Silicon Valley (SB4THSV), which delivers warm meals, toiletries, sleeping bags, tents, tarps, and water to unhoused community members.
On her Facebook page, Peralta said she felt “terribly humbled” to receive the award, and thanked her family, donors, and volunteers for all of their support.
I caught up with Jinky one Sunday afternoon and asked her a little about herself and her organization…
Born and raised in the Philippines, it wasn’t until Jinky was a teen that she moved to the United States, first to Sunnyvale, then to Milpitas in 1992. She credits her family with instilling in her the desire to help those less fortunate than herself: “I come from a big family, and we were always helping the whole town,” Peralta explains. “When I came to America I wanted to do the same thing and continue the legacy.” Her upbringing also taught her to empathize with others: “I try to put myself in other people’s shoes. You just never know what might happen.”
In 2017, the opportunity to help others on a greater scale presented itself when she founded the non-profit SB4THSV. She began targeting Milpitas’ homeless camps, supplying them with food and supplies on a weekly basis. Over the years the operation has grown to encompass over 12 camps totaling roughly 200-400 people.
Peralta has assigned team leaders to all of the camps. She also likes to personally visit her “baby camp” from time to time, a small group made up of eight young couples. “Their families don’t know they’re homeless,” Peralta sighs. Through continued support and donations, however, Peralta and her organization have been able to help them out of homelessness. Now they all have jobs and are on their way back to sustaining themselves. “I’m so happy I was able to help out the whole camp!” beams Peralta. It’s success stories like this that keep her going.
For every two steps forward, however, there are several steps back. Operating during the pandemic has been a major challenge for SB4THSV, and Peralta has seen a big rise in the number of homeless: “It’s everywhere!” she says. “Not only are there more individuals but more families are homeless now too.”
Due to COVID concerns, Peralta has had to limit the number of volunteers, who normally number up to 100 every week. And now she can only accept donations of new items. And instead of going to the camps, they come to her. Every week, Peralta posts a time and location on the SB4THSV Facebook page for donations and distribution. Many in the camps have her personal phone number. “They call to tell me what they need,” Peralta explains. “For families I try to get a sponsor. I get calls all day. I’m basically on call for them.”
All of this on top of her regular full-time job as a Patient Financial Clearance Representative with Stanford Health Care. Like many, Peralta has been working from home since the pandemic, which has its ups and downs. “It was very stressful in the beginning,” she admits. “But not having to commute every day has been nice.”
Peralta lives with her husband and has three children and three grandchildren. Her youngest son is 19 and still lives at home. Her other son is married with one child and visits frequently. Her daughter is married with two children and lives in Livermore.
All in all, Peralta is happy with where she is in life. SB4THSV is doing well, thanks to a loyal following of donors and volunteers with whom she has formed relationships over the past 5 years: Student groups like the Junior Ambassadors and the 4H Community Garden. Other non-profits like Loaves & Fishes, Ecumenical Hunger Program, Aram Sei and The Creators. Organizations like the Pakistani American Community Center. And local businesses that help provide food, including Tacos El Noa Noa, KFC, and Jollibee.
And thanks in part to a successful Giving Back Event in November, Peralta is now thinking about looking for office space to help store all of their items. ”We had a parking lot full of donated items. The support has been overwhelming!”
The next Giving Back Event is planned for this September.