Alumnus runs Kare Kits project for Santa Clara County population
THE SANTA CLARA
April 16, 2015
A former Santa Clara student has launched a project to distribute at least 150 backpacks full of necessities and supplies to the homeless population in Santa Clara County.
Alumnus Jillian Gerrity launched the Kare Kits project earlier this year to raise awareness of homelessness in Santa Clara County. Among other items, the kits will have toiletries, water, trail mix and a laminated card with contact information for support services. By seeking out the lowest prices and buying in bulk, it costs Gerrity $20 to produce each kit.
Gerrity began Kare Kits after taking a leadership course in January, but says the project is a result of her long-standing desire to help the needy.
“I’ve been very passionate about philanthropy and helping other communities for most of my life, so when I thought of a project that I might want to start, I jumped at the opportunity,” she said. “I read some articles about the need for certain things in this area and it developed from there.”
Gerrity and her small team of volunteers are promoting Kare Kits through a number of outlets. Although the bulk of the project’s budget has come from direct donations, the team is also organizing fundraisers.
Sophomore Elleni Hailu is working with Santa Clara musical groups to put together a benefit concert for the cause.
Hailu said that Kare Kits give her a chance to help solve an issue that is frequently overlooked in the area.
“We don’t realize it (is a significant problem) being at Santa Clara, at this beautiful place, since everyone is just going to school, not looking at what’s happening around us,” Hailu said. “This is my little way of improving the lives of the homeless population in the economy we live in.”
Despite the fact that the Santa Clara area has the fifth-largest homeless population in the nation, Gerrity’s program is the first of its kind in the county. She said that Santa Clara’s homeless are often overlooked because of regional factors.
“I think a lot of focus sometimes gets put on San Francisco because the presence of homelessness is in your face,” Gerrity said. “Here, we have a lot of encampments, so not a lot of people see how big of an issue it is in this area.”
Philip Boo Riley, associate professor of religion, said that while Gerrity’s assessment is partially correct, politicians in San Jose and Santa Clara have made a substantial effort to put homelessness in the spotlight.
“Santa Clara is not urban, it’s suburban, and here, a lot of homeless people gravitate to spaces that are not in the public eye,” said Riley. “But it’s actually a very public and very visible issue.”
Riley praises the project as a good start, but asserts that the overarching solution to the problem of homelessness requires advocacy and solidarity.
“People need these things, so it’s effective in that sense,” Riley said. “When we’re talking about Santa Clara, the most effective thing we can do is to arrange for students to have contact with homeless people.”
Gerrity hopes the Kare Kits project may be adopted by local organizations.
Contact Collin Baker at cnbaker @scu.edu or call (408) 554-4852.