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