Evans Lane gives San Jose homeless a reason to celebrate the holidays
Jerry Wilburn, a program manager with PATH, dresses up as Santa Claus for the holiday party at Evans Lane. Photo by Jana Kadah.

    Christmas came a few days early at Evans Lane.

    The roughly 15 families staying at the interim housing site in West San Jose were invited to a Christmas celebration on Wednesday by the site’s provider, PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) services, and Councilmember Dev Davis.

    They were met with festive decorations, a masked-up COVID conscious Santa Claus ready to take pictures with the 29 children staying there and several personalized gifts donated by residents of District 6.

    “I can tell you, this Christmas is so much better than last year,” Jaime Carr, a resident at Evans Lane said. “I actually had time to spend with my kids, we have a warm place to sleep and we have our Christmas going. It’s like, we get presents this year.”

    Carr, a mother of two, received literally a cart full of gifts, including a buildable slide for her one-year-old son and age-appropriate toys for her preteen daughter.

    PATH employees roll out a cart full of gifts for Evans Lane resident Jaime Carr and her two kids. Photo by Jana Kadah.

    “I couldn’t believe it when they rolled out the cart. I thought I was just going to pick one for each kid, but all of it was for us,” Carr said. “Then when they brought out the slide (I knew) the people here, they really cared about us.”

    She explained how staying at Evans Lane was a step up from last year, when she couldn’t get gifts for her family as they moved between homeless shelters, motels and living in their car. She was also in the hospital giving birth to her son on Christmas day last year, which made celebrating the holiday difficult.

    It was a position she never expected to be in, but when her landlord decided to sell the ranch she and her family lived and worked on, they struggled to find a place to go. Carr, who has been working at Tesla for four years, had a decent income, but it wasn’t enough to find a place to live.

    Their struggle to find housing started around the same time the pandemic did. But she said coming to Evans Lane was the saving grace she, her husband and two kids needed to be able to get back on their feet.

    “My goal was to find a place soon as possible and I did that last week,” Carr said beaming. “So, I’m moving out on the 31st.”

    Evans Lane resident Jaime Carr (in plaid) receives a cart full of gifts for her two kids at the Christmas party as Aiko Yep, PATH’s director of programs, watches. Photo by Jana Kadah.

    Carr is one of several families able to find permanent housing since the site did a soft launch in the summer. Now Evans Lane is fully open and able to house about about 50 families, who are slowly trickling in.

    “That transition time can be a little stressful, right, new neighbors, new environment. So anytime we welcome new people, it’s always great to just create celebration opportunities,” PATH Regional Director and columnist Laura Sandoval told San José Spotlight. “So, the fact that this lined up with the holidays is kind of perfect.”

    Laura Sandoval, regional director at PATH, speaks to families gathered at the Evans Lane holiday party. Photo by Jana Kadah.

    Families gathered for the holiday party in the main community room at Evans Lane. Young children dressed in festive outfits played with toys sprinkled around the living area while parents and teens enjoyed cookies and hot chocolate.

    Councilmember Davis had planned to attend the party, but had to cancel after she came into contact with someone testing positive for COVID.

    “We wanted to do something great for the residents since it’s their first holiday in a home here,” Davis told San José Spotlight. “We had a really good response from the community who donated gifts, which is such a heartwarming thing.”

    Her office organized the gift drive which resulted in dozens of toys ranging from Play-Doh packs and stuffed animals to hi-tech tablets and intricate Lego sets. The San Jose Earthquakes, the local professional soccer team and a PATH partner, also donated toys for the holiday party.

    “Our families have been through so much,” Sandoval said. “So being able to just say, this is a moment for you, for your family to come together to take a breath of fresh air and celebrate the holidays, it’s a very nice feeling for us and our families.”

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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