Social Ministry Joins Catholic Charities at John XXIII

Social Ministry Joins Catholic Charities at John XXIII

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Social Ministry staff and volunteers pictured by The Window mail area: (l–r) Jesse Aguirre, Case Manager, Bridges of Hope; Bryan Knapp, Community Worker, The Window and Bridges of Hope; Sharon L. Miller, Director, Social Ministry; Yaritza Cordova, Community Worker, The Window and Bridges of Hope; Chris Andes Cook, Case Manager, Bridges of Hope; and Kiana Martin, Presentation High School Student Volunteer.

After 36 years serving the most vulnerable in our community, the collaboration between Saint Joseph Cathedral and the Office of Social Ministry is now at Catholic Charities and recently moved its service delivery to John XXIII Multi-Service Center in downtown San Jose.

The Office of Social Ministry is dedicated to serving those who are homeless, those released from incarceration, and other vulnerable residents of San Jose. Two-hundred individuals are served daily by volunteers and 11 staff members. 

“We help to improve the quality of their lives, integrating health and social services with the belief that every human being is blessed with God-given dignity,” according to Sharon Miller, who previously worked as a registered nurse and has served as director of the program since 1988. Beginning as a  volunteer, she worked with the pastor to establish advocacy and services to this vulnerable population since 1983. 

Social Ministry’s services are delivered through three programs. Bridges of Hope “is a faith based resource center, which focuses on the provision of reentry services and case-management to individuals and families healing from the effects of incarceration in local jail or state prison. A drop-in Health Care Clinic provides free primary healthcare to those who are homeless, migrant workers, and those with no health insurance. Social Ministries continues to be an advocate in our county regarding homelessness, unraveling the tangled strands of cause, effect, and need for supportive affordable housing.

Perhaps the most visible of their services is “The Window,” named by the clients who access it. It provides “walk-up” services including free sandwiches, referrals to service providers, toiletries, and a post office.  An official branch of the Postal Service, it is a safe place where the homeless and those released from incarceration can receive mail while they are in transition and rebuilding their lives. “The Window” is central to a large population in need of services by creating linkages and referral to shelter, recovery homes, immigration resources, mental health providers, substance abuse counseling, employment, county benefits, Social Security, Veteran’s Administration, PG&E, legal aid connections, and healthcare.

With its relocation in February, the Social Ministry program joins other Catholic Charities initiatives at John XXIII critical to social integration and strengthening our community. These include a lunch program providing nutritious meals for seniors; daily recreational activities for seniors; English as a Second Language (ESL) and U.S. Citizenship Classes; and the Responsible Landlord Engagement Initiative (RLEI), a community initiative that helps communities stay safe and vibrant. 

“This is an exciting transition for this program,” Sharon said. “We anticipate it will lead to greater integration of services to our clients, as well as future sustainability with the potential to expand our program to more people who need our help.”

To learn more about the Social Ministry Program, please email smiller@catholiccharitiesscc.org.