Janessa's Story

“Currently I am one of the co-directors of the Gilroy Compassion Center. I’ve been at the Compassion Center for about six years. I first got involved with the Gilroy Compassion Center when I was still a student at Palo Alto University. I received my bachelors degree in psychology and part of my graduating requirements was that I got real world experience and work in the field. I was living in Gilroy at the time and commuting to De-Anzo College. A lot of the opportunities were up north and I was not looking for that. So I looked for a local non-profit and came up with the Compassion Center.

It’s actually a pretty interesting story, because my mother tells me that, when I was a kid, as early as she and I could remember, in the first grade, whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always write that I wanted to help other kids or I wanted to be a therapist who talks to kids. So in pursuing a psychology career I had always imagined myself in a career that worked around children, specifically at-risk youth. In finding this volunteer intern-ship position with the Compassion Center it was pretty out of my expectations in what I imagined myself doing in working with adults. I thought “well okay, let’s just get the field experience that I need, let’s just try it and find out where things go from here” and I never imagined that I would fall in love with working in this field and staying here as long as I’ve stayed.

During my first couple of months at GCC I was pretty uncomfortable, and I felt that I just couldn’t relate to a lot of the individuals that I was meeting. I felt that I could relate and offer a lot of sympathy and empathy for children, in that they couldn’t have much control in their situation, whereas adults were choosing their lifestyle. I built a wall for myself initially on coming into the intern-ship at the GCC, but that was quickly broken down by the friendships and relationships that I built with many of the clients there, and I found that everything that I did became personal. It wasn’t about saving people, it wasn’t about having a job, it was about individuals on their own, and being a singular human being having a conversation one- to- one. Growing up I never realized that that’s what it took to stay in the field for as long as I’m hoping to stay. It’s been a really rough couple of years, it’s been really emotional when you have that much emotional investment in people, it tears your life apart sometimes because you're going through it with them . A lot of people ask me “why do you continue to do it, why do you put so much of your heart and soul into it, why don't you just move onto the next person that you can help”, and sometimes if someone is not ready to take your hand you do have to move on, but that doesn't mean that emotionally you ever move on from that individual.

I’ve grown up very lucky and I’ve been loved by a lot of people. I’ve been given a lot of opportunities arising out of unconditional support ,and I recognize that, and I just think everyone should be as lucky as me.

If I’m able to love people and I’m able to help people, then why not? So that’s what I keep coming back to. Until there is something else that requires more of my attention, more of my investment, why not invest in the people of my community, so I will continue to invest in people in the way that I know how to, and that’s to love them.

I think the lives of the homeless women are some of the most horrific stories that I’ve ever heard as well as some of the most empowering and inspiring stories that I’ve ever heard. It takes a lot to get to this situation but it takes a lot to get out of this situation, and I think a lot of times women are not given enough credit for all of the barriers that they have to overcome. I do feel that its different for women.

I don't know that it’s necessarily harder or easier for women, but it’s definitely a different path (that I don't think people recognize) than it is for men. I think the system is built around a very concrete easy-cookie-cutter type of situation.

I currently live with my cat in a tiny home out on a ranch in San Benito County - it is 380 sq. ft. of studio space that is perfectly designed for one person and its more than enough. I think it’s a perfect example of utilizing space so that it’s comfortable and not excessive, and currently I’m in one of four tiny homes on the property. We have our own little commune village out on the ranch and I think that this is something worth investing in, that people don't have to live extravagant lives, but people deserve to live comfortable lives, and we could provide spaces like this for more people.

It’s the perfect solution for solving the homeless issue. People need the necessities to survive the elements, just needing a roof over their heads, basic heating, air conditioning, plumbing and a space to sleep and you can get that comfortably for even two people. I could easily see myself having a second person in this home. The idea that we’re running out of resources because there’s not enough space to build housing I think is delusional. I think we definitely have enough space for housing, if we build the right kind of housing. We could be working our way out of this problem sooner if we just acknowledged that the tiny home movement is done correctly. Not necessarily mobile tiny homes but free standing anchored tiny homes could be a solution.”