The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Surviving on Hope and the Kindness of Strangers in an RV on the Street

“All I have is hope,” said Allison James, who has been living in an RV parked on a street in Santa Clara for almost two years.

James and her 17-year-old daughter, Alexandria, are homeless, living on stubborn hope and the kindness of strangers, such as food deliveries and Christmas gifts from the Salvation Army.

Their RV doesn’t have electricity, so James keeps only the food items that don’t require cooking. The rest, she shares with other homeless in the industrial neighborhood.

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“I never knew what it was like for people to be cold. When you live on a fixed income, the cost of propane is too much. Besides, the fumes make you sick. We use robes, covers. We heat water with solar — the sun.”

“You wouldn’t know that I was homeless if I didn’t tell you,” said James, who looks for public places to recharge her mobile phone every other day.

“People think we’re all drug addicts, but that’s not true. There are families who had bad situations and traumas in life that brought them to this.”

James is African-American. Her husband is of Mexican and European ancestry. Both are native Californians. When they married in 2014, her husband was disinherited by his father, who was against their inter-racial marriage.

They were living in a house in Santa Clara owned by her husband’s father, who died three months after their marriage. They were evicted and “bounced around in motels” for about three years, depleting their savings.

“With all the frustration of losing everything, not knowing where to get the next meal, our marriage was going down,” said James. “We didn’t understand what homelessness does to people.”

She and her husband had a violent confrontation that led to restraining orders against him. He is on probation now and goes to domestic violence counseling.

“The trauma one feels in life ruins homes, relationships, jobs,” said James.

Her husband has been living in his car for three years. He bought the used RV for James and her home-schooled daughter.

Homeless shelters (if room) weren’t a viable option. Restrictive hours didn’t fit with work schedules.

“You can’t move forward in your life. I don’t have money for work pants and proper shoes, transportation, childcare,” said James, a chef and a cook who hasn’t worked since the pandemic.

She qualifies for CalPERS and SSI benefits, which are reduced when she does work.

“I called housing authorities, trying to get people to rent to me, but there are so many walls. Landlords don’t have the trust or ability to rent to people like me,” said James.

Fear for her daughter’s and her safety is always in the back of her mind.

“But I don’t feel so afraid now. I’m more in tune with myself and set small goals,” said James. “Jesus, God, makes me feel better about myself. He’s looking down on my homeless nest.”

In a recent blow, her mom, living in southern California, died June 13 from COVID-19.

“Even though it may seem that we’re in the darkest of times right now, remember, God is there always,” said James. “That’s what I do.

“I pray for a smile from God for myself and for other people because it’s very, very hard out here. I pray for a smile from whatever my day brings. I dream of helping somebody.”

“It was good for me to let this all out. It’s good for me to talk about it,” said James. “It’s not good for me to have a happy face for the world all the time.”

Update: Those who would like to help James and her daughter may send support to her mail service: Allison Jenial James 2464 El Camino Real # 129, Santa Clara, CA 95051.

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20 Comments
  1. Viola Smith 7 days ago
    Reply

    Thank you for this moving story. But for the grace of God, that could be any of us – especially given how the pandemic has decimated small businesses and the job sector. My heart goes out to this family and I would love to be able to give a donation to help if SVV could share how to go about doing that. Thank you.

    • Rich Sakai 7 days ago
      Reply

      I too would like to donate too. Please send me any info on this matter too.

      Thank you

    • Editor 2 days ago
      Reply

      Hello,
      Thank you for your interest in assisting Allison James. The story has been updated with information on how to help.
      Best wishes,
      Editor

    • Allison a.k.a Mrs.Ally 16 hours ago
      Reply

      Thanks so much for listening. An may God be the voice through prayer to say Thanks for caring an no that even though we have storms that rages like no tommorow we also have hope an Love for such a time as this Thanks again

  2. Rich Sakai 7 days ago
    Reply

    I too would like to donate too. Please send me any info on this matter too.

    Thank you

    • Editor 2 days ago
      Reply

      Hello,
      Thank you for your interest in assisting Allison James. The story has been updated with information on how to help.
      Best wishes,
      Editor

    • Allison a.k.a Mrs.Ally 16 hours ago
      Reply

      Thanks so much for listening. An may God be the voice through prayer to say Thanks for caring an no that even though we have storms that rages like no tommorow we also have hope an Love for such a time as this Thanks again

  3. Isela Vasquez 7 days ago
    Reply

    Can you please send information how we can help with any donations to go directly to this family? Thank you for publishing this story. We are seeing the RV’s parked for an extended amount of time and the initial reaction is fear, not knowing who is inside, if they are harmful. This allows the community to know that they are people and humans in need. This humbles us all and I would like to help.

    Thank You,

    • Editor 2 days ago
      Reply

      Hello,
      Thank you for your interest in assisting Allison James. The story has been updated with information on how to help.
      Best wishes,
      Editor

  4. Debbie Tryforos 7 days ago
    Reply

    Our Soroptimist Club mat be able to help. Please send info on what she needs etc

    • Editor 2 days ago
      Reply

      Hello,
      Thank you for your interest in assisting Allison James. The story has been updated with information on how to help.
      Best wishes,
      Editor

  5. Elissa 7 days ago
    Reply

    Gosh…there are so many people in this situation. I just moved from Ohio, 18 months ago and am heartbroken about the homelessness and obscene housing prices. When I walk my dog, I see so many people living out of their cars and RV’s.

  6. Vanessa Esguerra 7 days ago
    Reply

    I would love to donate. Please send me there information. Thank you

    • Editor 2 days ago
      Reply

      Hello,
      Thank you for your interest in assisting Allison James. The story has been updated with information on how to help.
      Best wishes,
      Editor

  7. Sharon Greenslaughter 6 days ago
    Reply

    Please let us me know so I can get her some help. This breaks my heart

    • Editor 2 days ago
      Reply

      Hello,
      Thank you for your interest in assisting Allison James. The story has been updated with information on how to help.
      Best wishes,
      Editor

  8. Editor 6 days ago
    Reply

    Thank you everyone for reaching out and asking how to donate to the James family. You all are amazing!
    We will publish that information here once we receive it. We will update the story as well.

  9. Allison 16 hours ago
    Reply

    Thanks so much each one of us has experienced storms an strong winds unexpectedly but how we handle it .I thought that too felt the same as you , but after living their God gave me hope an even though 3/4 of all the people have addiction an even though I am scared most days The hope installed in me I leave behind the Hope that one day things will better for those left behind an we somehow end homeless with in our world’ thanks again an may God bless you this day an give you forevermore blessings

  10. Allison 16 hours ago
    Reply

    Thanks an may you be the light to teach me an others as I to no that we all have a voice weather good or bad seemed like it was never going to go away but when I really started to except it forgiving blaming no one that’s when I really started too see hope thanks again God bless

  11. Allison a.k.a Mrs.Ally 15 hours ago
    Reply

    Thanks Sharon this breaks my heart to an thank you an those are my thoughts as I walk to do laundry my heart breaks an each day starts with a prayer an each day for me is different an very much differently to only care for those who given up hope with just kind words

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