Backbone of Silicon Valley: Raymond “RJ” Ramsey
Raymond "RJ" Ramsey is a homeless outreach worker who worked during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Vicente Vera.

Editor’s Note: Backbone of Silicon Valley is a first-of-its-kind video storytelling project. Our reporters spent a year documenting the plight of six essential workers in Silicon Valley—the unsung heroes who clean your house, pack your groceries and prescriptions, cook your food, work in hospitals and deliver your meals. San José Spotlight teamed up with filmmakers to tell their stories. Check our video page for new mini documentaries posting Mondays and Wednesdays in December.

After a divorce tore his life apart, former lawyer Raymond “RJ” Ramsey became homeless. Now he lives at San Jose’s Second Street Studios, but he hasn’t forgotten the experience of living on the streets—and he put his life at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic to help homeless residents.

Ramsey volunteers with the Unhoused Response Group, which provides homeless people with food, water, clothing, blankets and COVID kits that include masks and hand sanitizer. Ramsey never knows if the people he’s helping have COVID.

Despite risking his own life, Ramsey said he feels a calling to help others who are still living in the shadows.

“We look for the people that nobody else finds,” he said. “We’re just formerly homeless people who want to give back.”

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