By Devin Fehely

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – In Downtown San Jose, a nonprofit has found a way to get homeless people back on their feet, starting with a cup of coffee.

“I’ve slept on rooftops. I’ve slept in parking garages. I’ve slept outside churches,” said Ann Pagacian, who works at the Kartma coffee cart.

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For Pagacian, Kartma serves more than coffee. It also offers something that has been in desperately short supply in her life in recent years, hope.

A former tech employee, Pagacian has been homeless for six years ever since the death of her fiancé. She is part of a four-person team of current and formerly homeless men and women who run the coffee cart at the busy intersection of Santa Clara and Market Streets.

“The day I learned I got this job, I jumped up and down,” said Benjamin Soto, who also ended up homeless after the sudden loss of a loved one.

Soto even lived briefly at the sprawling homeless encampment known as The Jungle, before finding housing on the same day he was hired by Kartma.

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“I’m one of the first employees for the cart. So, how cool is that?” Soto said.

Kartma is run by the Downtown Streets Team, a nonprofit which provides jobs and services for the homeless.

“The main component is we’re paying a living wage which in this county is a difficult thing to do,” said Downtown Streets Team project manager Rob Sanchez. “But it’s very important if somebody wants to obtain and keep housing.

Kartma employees make $15 an hour. The entire project is paid for with donations, as well as sales from customers who lined up in the rain Tuesday morning, eager to give and receive a little pick-me-up.

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“I really think this is an awesome idea,” said customer Erica Bracken. “And I think that they should make more around downtown.”