SAN JOSE — The front-page photo of a father dozing with his young daughter huddled near him covered only with a thin blanket as they spent the night on a public bus instantly became the heart-wrenching picture of homelessness in Silicon Valley.
But the good news is that they are no longer riding the “Hotel 22.”
Both have entered the Family Supportive Housing shelter, said Executive Director Beth Leary.
After this newspaper ran a story on Nov. 1 describing how the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority 22 bus becomes a mobile shelter for the homeless in the overnight hours, a flood of readers responded, offering to help the pair. The nonprofit community also set off to locate them and at least get a temporary roof over their heads.
That happened last Thursday.
“It’s great that we’re able to help them, but they are not unusual,” said Leary, whose shelter has 35 rooms. “We’re always full, and we get 40 to 50 calls a day. We’re like an emergency room, taking in families for 90 days. Many of these parents are working, but they’ve run into some kind of catastrophic event to make them homeless.”
The father, Leary said, has been overwhelmed by the attention. He would not give their names that night on the bus and did not wish to be interviewed for this story — presumably to shield his 10-year-old daughter.
But when he spoke for the original story, he said they had been homeless for five months and spent their nights riding the bus. Despite their tough circumstances, he added that his daughter was having “one of her best years so far in school.”
The response was immediate.
Readers from as far away as England and Singapore, and as young as age 13, were touched by their story, asking what they could do to assist them.
Dayana Salazar, a San Jose State professor, was more than moved. She immediately recognized the pair from the downtown school bus stop where she and husband Jaime Angulo wait with their 6-year-old son each day.
“We say hello to them every morning, but we had no idea that they were living on the bus,” said Angulo, a program manager for the nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley. “But that morning, my wife saw the photo and said, ‘Look, we know them.’ I told her, ‘We need to get them off that bus.'”
Angulo said the father told them they had to leave their rental unit when he lost his job and that he volunteered at a Goodwill store while he looked for work.
Impressed, Angulo and his wife paid for them to spend three nights in a hotel. LaDoris Cordell, the retired Superior Court judge who is San Jose’s Independent Police Auditor, then arranged to have them stay with friends for two more nights before space opened up at Family Supportive Housing.
That shelter is unique because unlike other area facilities, it accepts men with children.
“We’re the only game in town when it comes to single dads, so the options for him are very, very limited,” Leary said.
Jennifer Loving, executive director of Destination: Home, who helped make the connections to get them into the shelter, said that while she’s happy there may be a happy ending to this story, there are countless others who need help.
“That bus story really touched a nerve,” Loving said. “But it’s really not just this girl. There are hundreds of girls like this, but those families are off the radar. They’re not actually on the streets because parents are trying to protect their kids. They’re staying in cars or with friends.
“I don’t think people really understand homelessness and just who is out there.”
A point-in-time census conducted in January counted 7,631 homeless in Santa Clara County. An accompanying survey estimated that 19,063 people would experience homelessness this year in the county.
Angulo said he is organizing an effort to help find the father and daughter permanent housing. Even though he doesn’t know the pair well, Angulo said it’s easy to want to do something for them.
“He’s always with his daughter,” Angulo added. “They’re very united. She’s a very happy girl.”
Follow Mark Emmons at Twitter.com/markedwinemmons.