New pilot program aims to build social, community connections in San Jose

Lauren Martinez Image
Wednesday, August 2, 2023
New pilot program aims to build community connections in San Jose
City leaders say Together SJ, a pilot program for neighborhoods to socialize more regularly, is about residents taking an active role in the community.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The City of San Jose has launched new volunteer pilot program for neighborhoods to get together more regularly, to socialize and have events throughout the year that will build community.

Every year on National Night Out, San Jose Police Deputy Chief Brian Shab returns to the apartment complex he grew up in. For decades Shab said the complex off Checkers Drive and McKee Road have held a National Night Out event.

"We talk a lot about it takes a village to raise kids well this is the village that raised me," Shab said.

He believes this yearly event strengthens bonds within the community.

"I've seen neighborhoods that are just starting out in their organization building through neighborhood associations come into their first National Night Out and really just become so much more connected," Shab said.

The Deputy Chief said moving forward it's about finding the new neighborhoods that aren't organized yet and shoe them the benefit of getting together.

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"For the police department to really be able to connect with the community and in an environment that isn't high stress, isn't an emergency, where the officers can kind of come out when they're not investigating a crime," Shab said.

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan says this is a great event but the goal is year-round.

Mahan announced a new program called Together SJ. The city secured a million-dollar grant focused on building social connection and residential engagement.

"We are launching a new initiative to go out to our neighborhood associations and invest in connecting neighbors to address the loneliness epidemic that America is facing today. Especially coming out of the pandemic Americans report feeling less connected to one another," Mahan said.

City leaders say Together SJ is about residents taking an active role in the community.

"Having those events throughout the year to build community to connect people to city resources, and really empower our neighborhoods to take collective action themselves without simply sending in their tax dollars - outsourcing the problem and the solution to government and then complaining when it doesn't get fixed," Mahan said.

Together SJ will start as a pilot program - the city is encouraging neighborhood leaders or associations to sign up. A link can be found here.

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"We will be base lining where they start in terms of trust in government social isolation or connectedness, accessibility of city services and perceptions of neighborhood safety we will be retaking the same survey within one year to demonstrate improvement," Mahan said.

Mahan said at the end of the year - if they see there's no movement in perception the pilot program will not be renewed.

San Jose Police Captain Brian Spears said safety is a shared responsibility.

"Beyond just reducing crime, neighborhood watch programs have a transformative impact on our communities," Spears said.

Whether it's a neighborhood watch training or a potluck - it's about taking action together.

"We just hear it out in our neighborhoods, people say you know - we aren't as engaged as we used to be we've seen lower rates of volunteerism. We used to have more people on an annual bases come out and pick up litter every year and even those numbers are down," Mahan said.

This was San Jose resident Unhi Schmid's first-time volunteering at a National Night Out event.

"It was fun just seeing all the different age groups and people interacting and just communicating with each other it was fun and I think we need more of that," Schmid said.

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