Last month, The Milpitas Beat sat down with Hope for the Unhoused (H4U) President Rob Jung and a couple of the individuals assisted by the organization in their mission to combat homelessness in Milpitas. H4U does constant outreach, bringing food and hygiene packs to Milpitas’ unhoused residents while also doing more intensive work to help them get off the streets and into permanent housing. The Beat has reported on this nonprofit’s work multiple times in the past, but this is the first time we have highlighted their success stories.
Rob Jung is an active community member who serves as a trustee on the Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) School Board and also founded the Milpitas Community Educational Endowment (MCEE). He works closely at H4U with Board Member at Large Yolie Garcia, who also holds a leadership position with MCEE.
About H4U, Jung said to The Beat, “We have helped [people] into permanent housing…We’re not providing the housing; we’re the facilitator, if you want to call it that.”
According to Jung, in the two and a half years of H4U’s existence, they have helped approximately 30 people get into permanent housing situations. These could be in Milpitas or they could be elsewhere, but the organization has the clear goal of keeping Milpitians in Milpitas.
“I would say the majority of the 30 – maybe 4 to 5 of these folks – were veterans. And we went through a VA [Veterans Affairs] situation for them.”
Every situation has its own specific details and challenges. Jung highlighted how sometimes the more immediate goal is helping people find a job, so as to ultimately help them to secure housing. Then there was the case of a 78-year-old senior with dementia who couldn’t look after herself; H4U has helped her get into a facility and is now working on getting her into state-funded housing.
“We try to take a look at the client as a whole to see how we can create a pathway for that person to be housed,” Rob Jung explained.
He estimates that there are currently around 200 unhoused residents living in Milpitas. He added, “The vast majority of the folks unhoused are unaware of the resources.” Reason being, their Internet or phone access might be limited. They might have phones but have trouble keeping them charged or be unable to use them to do web searches. Plus, in an unhoused scenario, it is easy to lose your phone or have it get stolen.
Jung highlighted how one of Hope for the Unhoused’s strengths is that they go out proactively to interact with and provide support services and care packages to the city’s unhoused residents. Oftentimes, homeless people only interact with public service providers when the police show up to answer a call. H4U offers a different kind of interaction and approach.
That said, Jung emphasized, “If they’re not invested in it, we’re not gonna be invested in it.” Meaning: the residents whom they help have to essentially help themselves get into permanent housing. The nonprofit can help to pave the way, but it’s the resident who ultimately has to walk the path.
Here are some stories about those who are doing so…
For a year now, Norma has lived in the Calabasas Community Center in Santa Clara. As part of the program she’s involved in, Norma has to remain there for two years. She receives onsite therapy with her two children, and also goes to medical appointments.
Living with Norma are her two children, ages 26 and 24, along with her baby grandchild. “I got a COVID granddaughter that I adore,” Norma beamed to The Beat.
She expressed the utmost gratitude for the Community Center’s work: “I got this golden goose; I’m gonna cherish it.”
Her dog Piggy lives with her, too. Piggy was loyally by her side throughout nine years of homelessness. They’d set up camp on the train tracks in Milpitas. Often, the two of them stayed up all night, chasing away racoons and possum and whatever or whoever else might have thought to bother them.
Norma shared, “I became homeless when a 22-year marriage went south. He wanted to take my daughters, and I knew that the bottom line of that was to drive me nuts.”
There was also physical violence near the end of the marriage: Norma’s husband smoked what he thought was a cigarette but what turned out to be PCP. In a rage, he beat her severely, sending her to the hospital.
In the end, Norma gave him the house and got to keep her kids. At the time, she was working in hospice care and earning a good income, but after the divorce, she and the kids found themselves living in a string of motels. Add to this the ongoing stress of getting her kids to school and wherever else they needed to go, and things broke down. It just wasn’t sustainable.
“I’ve always worked. I’ve always owned. I’ve never rented,” Norma shared.
As the pandemic came, Norma experienced health problems. She ended up needing a couple of surgeries, which would have been difficult under any circumstances, but was made all the more so due to the pandemic’s slowdown of the medical sector and the fact that she was homeless.
“If you don’t have the right thought process…you can really drown,” Norma said.
Along the way, however, she was approached by Hope for the Unhoused’s Yolie Garcia. “Yolie and her crew did not give up on me,” Norma said.
She got through the surgeries, and at age 57, she hopes to live for many more years. “I have so much more to do,” Norma Campos told us. “All that hell was worth where I’m at right now.”
Raul was born in Mexico. Early in his life, he discovered an exceptional talent for cycling…
“I was a cyclist since I was a kid,” Raul told The Beat. “I moved to the United States just for that reason. I was 23 years old.”
He settled in Los Angeles. His cycling career got off to a bumpy start, as he struggled with knee injuries yet was also determined to keep training. Meanwhile, he met a woman and got married. Before the marriage, Raul was very disciplined: no drinking, no going out. But, alongside his wife, he started using drugs. Alcohol had never appealed to him. Nor had cocaine.
But Raul’s drug of choice became crystal meth. “I’m always hyper,” Raul shared. Meth helped him to calm down.
Before long, the marriage ended. Raul was a mechanic by profession, and often got work fixing bikes, but he now found himself jumping from job to job. In time, he made his way up north to the Bay Area. Briefly he spent time in Hawaii, where he worked a sales job. But he got in trouble out there, losing his license as a result of a DUI. In addition, regarding Hawaii, “It was boring for me. Paradise.”
Raul made his way back to California. He got and lost another job, and found himself living in a minivan in Milpitas, parking at night in business areas. Despite having no money, he always was sure to keep his license plate tags current. But renewing the insurance was a tougher task. He found himself sinking.
“The circle, right?” Raul said. “Getting high, trying to make the day go by, spending a little money on food…”
In the meantime, he encountered danger on the streets. He was physically attacked at one point, and kept moving around to different spots.
One day, Yolie Garcia came to see him, offering support from Hope for the Unhoused. “Every week, she would be consistent. She would give me three or four little bags, and I would just make them last.”
He had a job at Big Sports, and tried to get more hours. He felt that a regular 9 to 5 schedule would help him to be more consistent. “Unfortunately,” he said, “the schedule was all over the place.”
Sometimes, at night, he’d sleep in a public restroom. There’d be ants all over the floor, so he’d spend time cleaning it up before lying down. The job gave him more hours, but he had trouble keeping up with the schedule. He tried to stop using drugs, but that, too, was a struggle. He’d get cranky and irritable, and snap at the people around him if he felt they were being disrespectful.
But with H4U’s help, Raul began the process of organizing his documentation to get into permanent housing. When we spoke, he was hopeful about the prospect of moving into a studio apartment.
In the meantime, he’d like to learn a new skill. “I don’t want to depend on just bikes,” Raul said.
And he’d like to remain stable in the Bay Area. He has been in the U.S. for 25 years.
“I don’t want to go back to Mexico,” said Raul Frias. “My life is here.”
STEVEN RUSSEL (AKA SARGE)
A Vietnam veteran, Sarge was raised in Milpitas and attended MUSD schools. He lost his mother in 1988, then became homeless after her passing. H4U assisted Sarge with reaching the VA and getting assessed for housing. He now lives in a studio apartment in San Jose.
TONY & DIANE ARNET
Tony not only asked H4U for help with housing, he also highlighted his wife Diane’s need for medical care. H4U put them up in a local hotel for several days, then was able to assist the couple in getting benefits and help Diane to schedule neck and back surgery. She is now in a wheelchair; Tony is her caregiver. The couple lives in permanent housing at Milpitas’ Hillview Apartments.
Lynn and her two puppies were living in her truck and large trailer in Milpitas when H4U approached her. Said Garcia in an email to The Beat, “Lynn is very good at advocating for herself; she is kind and resilient. She does all she can to help other unhoused – helping them to move, set up camp, help with food/water. She volunteers with H4U meal distribution.”
This past August, with H4U’s help, Lynn moved into a permanent apartment. She also now serves as a H4U board member.
A consistent theme among these H4U success stories is praise of H4U’s staff.
At present, H4U President Rob Jung estimates that the organization’s annual budget is between 25 and 30 thousand dollars. They are always working to grow and expand, broadening and deepening their ability to make a positive impact on the community.
The Beat also spoke by phone with Robert Cooper, who was unhoused but recently moved into a permanent apartment with H4U’s help. Mr. Cooper did not share the details of his story, but had this to say about H4U:
“They’re just there to help us. Support, support, support. They’re very helpful.”
Learn more about Hope for the Unhoused here.