Hollister’s Salvation Army location on Buena Vista Road is no longer accepting donations after a flurry of recent trespassing instances.
Capt. Maria Romero with the Hollister Salvation Army said the local branch of the organization is putting off accepting donations in its two large containers near the facility’s entrance until at least after the winter season.
“There’s a lot of people trespassing, and we want to stop that,” Romero said.
So that means for a couple months at least, the local Salvation Army, 910 Buena Vista Road, won’t accept donations but it will continue to have volunteers out collecting money in those familiar kettles outside stores. She has been telling people they can take their items to Gilroy or the local Goodwill.
There are other local nonprofit thrift stores that accept donations such as Hazel’s and Worth Saving in the downtown area.
Romero told San Benito Live the trespassing problem had become a safety issue for workers and volunteers at the Salvation Army. Despite the ban on donations for the past couple of weeks, the problem hasn’t necessarily stopped, either. Romero said it seems to be a mix of homeless residents and others as well.
“I was surprised to see this lady on Tuesday, half of her body inside the container,” Romero said of the big metal containers inside the fence at the site where people would drop off donations. “About half of her body was inside.”
She said there is a fence around the facility that gets locked, but that people oftentimes will jump it regardless. She said the amount of donated stuff can build up, too, because the Salvation Army truck doesn’t come that often, sometimes once a month, for pick-ups.
“They bring their trash to our facilities so we need to clean all that. We keep what’s good, throw away what’s not.”
Romero is the main person running the facility. She said the trespassing will occur when she’s not there and also when she’s there.
“Sometimes I get out of the office and I start walking and they’re here,” she said, “and it’s scary sometimes.”
The Salvation Army has called law enforcement on the matter, and sheriff’s Capt. Eric Taylor said the agency has made efforts to address issues on that side of town such as encampments.
“Historically, we do have issues with homeless people camping in that area,” Taylor said. “We’ve had a lot of issues with homelessness and encampments back there along the cemetery and along the backside of Vista Park Hill. I can’t think of any specific uptick or relevant cases lately that would’ve caused them to make this decision, but I do know it’s been a battle over there for years.”
Taylor said the sheriff’s office has tried to stay on top of the encampment issue and has even put out extra patrols in the area.
“Even at the cemetery, we’ve had problems at the cemetery with stuff getting vandalized, taken,” he said.
He said the agency has made efforts to direct people toward outreach such as through the local homeless shelter organization. He said law enforcement is also empathetic for neighbors who have to deal with it.
“It’s definitely on our radar and something we’ve been trying to stay on top of,” he said.