Meet Rebecca, one of our Outreach Leads of StandUp For Kids – Silicon Valley.
Rebecca is a Bay Area native, born and raised from Redwood City to Gilroy into San Jose. Living in the area for so long, she sees the changes in the last 30 plus years and describes that she is drawn to the diversity of people living here. She mentioned that her High School in downtown San Jose focused on the community around them, especially on populations that might have been overlooked. When she helped her mom drop off needed donations from a school drive, Rebecca visited The Village for the first time and decided to become a volunteer. She said: I’m so glad to have found SUFKSV and participate in the mission and vision of this group.
Being a resident of San Jose, Rebecca is familiar with homelessness. She talks about the large variety of homeless adults: Veterans who have served for any portion of time and unfortunately not reintegrated into society, people that live in St. James Park or in the doorways of buildings, moving from one area to another, people that are unhoused but live in their cars, because rent is so crazy high. Some of the homeless folks you can speak with, and they are approachable, and then there are the kinds that for whatever reason seem to be stuck in their mental state.
But it was very new to her, that there were homeless children and youth. “I have never seen homeless children. It’s not something you think about, especially here [in the rich Bay Area]. You think they are students, they have a backpack on and are probably going to college here. They don’t look obviously homeless as the other people here downtown.”
Since March our outreach center The Village has been closed. Rebecca said that she is sad about it but happy that SUFKSV is doing street outreach, at least once a week. We know the kids are out there somewhere. But how to reach them is the next part of our mission. When I thanked her for being one of our outreach leads, she smiled and said that the question of How we reach homeless youth and where do we find them is constantly on her mind. While driving around she makes a mental note: Next time outreach by the light rail station. She also looks around and asks herself: Are these college students? Or perhaps homeless youth?
But doing outreach is not for everyone and not easy. Rebecca shares that the most important rules are safety and trust for both people. Then it is easier to deliver the messages of: We are here to help. You can trust me. I’m not trying to turn that around and take advantage of you.
You have to see if that person is willing to engage with you and even wants to be approached in the first place. And if it is a safe situation. All of that is super important as well as knowing your boundaries and knowing their boundaries. This helps to establish trust: Why are you here? Why are you talking to me? Is it safe for me to start talking to you and open up a little bit about my situation or I’m going to be taking advantage of it? This is another aspect of some people who may have found themselves on the streets: they trusted one of too many people and now things are not in their favor.
Rebecca feels that there is a circle, that some people don’t have enough information or never find the stepping stone to get out of the current situation. They may feel: Nothing will ever get better. That’s why doing outreach is such an important piece, being able to share the information, that there are resources available, no cost, all geared towards the homeless youth. It’s not that: We forget about you, or you will figure it out, you are still so young you can change from here. No, we know you are out here. We will find you and we will help you!
Rebecca believes strongly in her community, where everyone belongs. She likes to think: These are my neighbors. I want to support my neighbors. I want to make sure they are getting the help they need and that the stereotypes about homelessness are not getting put on them – one size doesn’t fit all. You don’t know these people’s situation. Try not to judge them!