Bramson: Finding it hard to sleep tonight
A homeless encampment in San Jose is pictured in this file photo.

With an utterly horrific and terrifying year nearly wrapped up, I have spent the past few weeks thinking about what gifts might still be under the tree despite all the carnage. And I have to admit it’s hard to get in a festive mood this holiday season.

The pandemic is still raging across the country, businesses are shut down, people are out of work, insurmountable debt is piling up at the feet of those who already had the least, and it’s cold and raining outside, with the most vulnerable folks wet, miserable and sick on the streets.

The truth is no amount of ornaments, tinsel or sparkling lights will make this moment feel any better. There’s just too much suffering and heartache and failure to make the new year bright.

That said, there’s also been courage, bravery and generosity deserving of a lot more than a lump of coal.

On the front lines, advocates, volunteers and others who have nothing but love in their hearts have continued to go out rain or shine to deliver food, basic necessities and hope to the unsheltered. Nonprofit agencies like Abode Services, HomeFirst, PATH, LifeMoves, Family Supportive Housing, Amigos de Guadalupe, Next Door Solutions and many more are providing housing, shelter and care to keep thousands of people warm and safe. And Sacred Heart Community Service spearheaded an effort with 70 other partner organizations throughout the county to offer emergency financial assistance, keeping over 12,000 families and counting in their homes.

Moreover, the unsung heroes – workers from government bodies like the county of Santa Clara and the city of San Jose – have given every last ounce of themselves to fight back a disaster that seemingly has no end. They show up each day faced with a thousand new challenges and keep coming back for more.

Taking time to acknowledge this good work doesn’t diminish the hardships and terrifying prospects many of our neighbors are facing, but it does at least provide us with something to build on. And that’s exactly what we’ll need in the hard months ahead.

A good start is to pass the new eviction protection legislation (AB 15) recently introduced by state Assemblymember David Chiu.

If approved, this bill will extend the eviction moratorium currently in place through the end of 2021. With lockdowns now upon us and the vaccine distribution still months away, extending this lifeline is a good way to at least hold off the bad tidings ahead. With old Saint Nick on his way, maybe the federal government can finally get off the naughty list and do something to help with a stimulus package that includes real rent relief for millions of Americans in dire need.

That said, it still just doesn’t feel like the season to be jolly. If we want to avoid complete loss and devastation, what comes next is real sacrifice and every person doing all they can to make sure that we get through this bitter winter together. Whatever that means to you — volunteering, donating or just lending a hand when and where you can — now is the time to reach out and do something kind.

San José Spotlight columnist Ray Bramson is the Chief Operating Officer at Destination: Home, a nonprofit that works to end homelessness in Silicon Valley. His columns appear every second Monday of the month. Contact Ray at [email protected] or follow @rbramson on Twitter.

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