For homeless residents in San Jose, this 19-year-old is a true superhero

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On the streets of San Jose, he is known by only one name:
Batman.

As he makes his way through the many homeless encampments that
dot the city, his purple cape billowing out behind him and the
iconic bat logo displayed across his chest, people call out to
him.

“Hey, Batman!” “What’s up, Batman?” “It’s Batman,
bro!”

He responds to each one, handing out bottles of water, canned
tuna and ravioli, shirts and socks. He asks how people are doing,
poking his head into tents to make sure the occupants are all
right.

VIDEO: San
Jose’s own Batman raising awareness and donating to
homeless

He’s not really a superhero. He’s a 19-year-old from San
Jose, fresh out of high school, who drives a 2002 Toyota Avalon
instead of a Batmobile and lives with his parents. But for the past
year, he’s been donning the elaborate, hand-made costume and
visiting his city’s homeless communities.Now that school’s
out, he’s going almost every day.

His goal is to get strangers to notice him and ask what he’s
doing so he can spread awareness about the crisis that’s left
more than 6,000 people in the city with nowhere to call home — a
42% increase in two years.

“I want to draw attention to the issues that people don’t
like to look at,†he said. “And Batman is very
attention-grabbing. And purple Batman is even more
attention-grabbing. So I figured I’d use that to help show people
what’s going on in San Jose.â€

Like the real Dark Knight, he insists on keeping his identity a
secret.

SAN
JOSE, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 10: Batman, a San Jose man who wants to
remain anonymous, puts on his costume in a parking garage before
delivering water, food and clothes to homeless people in downtown
San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay
Area News Group) 

On a recent weekday, Batman started his rounds at the San Pedro
Square parking garage, strapping on his costume — and his
alter-ego — before stepping out of the gloom and into the
sunlight. Then, pulling a wagon full of supplies bought with his
own money or donated by family and friends — he spends at least
$20 a day on supplies — he set off. He was headed for St. James
Park, where people with nowhere else to go often gather.

His costume, made from motocross armor, is convincing. He has a
passion for costume-making and is headed to Rochester Institute of
Technology in the fall to study industrial design. A respirator
mask, worn as a coronavirus precaution, muffles his voice and makes
him sound even more like a superhero. Around his waist is a utility
belt stocked with tools and a first-aid kit, and he carries duct
tape and zip ties to help people fix their tents and makeshift
shelters.

Strangers stare as he walks by. Some wave from their cars.
Others ask for photos.

“I’ve been seeing him everywhere,†said 65-year-old Robert
Earl as he accepted a bottle of water from the masked hero. “I
guess where he’s needed.â€

Crossing the park, Batman ran into 53-year-old Elizabeth
Henriques, who immediately asked for a hug.

“It’s good to see you,†she said, grinning with emotion,
her eyes threatening tears. “It makes me smile.â€

SAN
JOSE, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 10: Batman, a San Jose man who wants to
remain anonymous, gets a hug from Elizabeth Henriques, who is
homeless, after she became emotional when she saw him as he drops
off water, food and clothing to the homeless in St. James Park in
downtown San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (Nhat V.
Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

It had been a while since they’d seen each other. Batman asked
how she’s been, and Henriques, who used to sleep in St. James
Park, had good news: The county placed her and her partner in one
of the motel rooms reserved to house homeless residents during the
coronavirus pandemic. She’s thrilled. She can shower every day
now, and she’s wearing earrings again.

They spent some time joking and catching up, and before he left,
Henriques told Batman it’s her birthday in two weeks: July 1. He
wrote the date down in a little black notebook.

He uses the notebook to keep careful record of the promises he
makes to people on the streets, whether it’s a blanket, new shoes
or a birthday visit. He learned early on never to make a promise he
can’t keep.

Batman was first introduced to the homeless community through
his high school’s mandatory service hours, which he spent at
Sacred Heart and various soup kitchens in the area. The more he
talked to people getting food and other help, the more it struck
him that many people on the street could use a little friendly
conversation. So that’s what he strives to provide — and the
Batman getup helps.

“It’s like they know me already,†he said. “So they’re
more comfortable.â€

He’s had some intense moments, too. There was the time he
found a woman having a diabetic seizure because her blood sugar was
too low. He sprinted to Ike’s Love & Sandwiches and told
someone behind the counter, “I need candy, now!†Whether it was
his tone of voice or the authority that comes with the outfit, he
got the candy and rushed back in time to help stop the seizure.

Then there was the time someone pulled a knife on him. Batman
shrugs off that confrontation, explaining the man just wanted to be
left alone — he wasn’t actually going to stab him.

Sometimes, Batman meets kindred spirits, like Nikhil Bhatnagar,
an immigration attorney from San Jose who also brings food to
homeless camps in the area. The two crossed paths at an encampment
recently, and Bhatnagar was impressed by Batman’s efforts — and
his costume.

But the fact Batman has to exist at all “demonstrates a flaw
in the system,†Bhatnagar said. “What he’s trying to do —
and what I’m doing to a much lesser extent — is a Band-Aid. And
there are longer-term solutions that need to be put in
place.â€

In addition to St. James Park, Batman regularly visits an
encampment tucked under the overpass off West Santa Clara Street,
near the SAP Center.

He climbed through a hole in a chain-link fence to reach a
shabby tent covered in a blue tarp, surrounded by shopping carts.
This one is always tough for him: A mom and her 3-year-old son live
here. They weren’t home this time, so he left a box full of food
and clothing outside the tent.

“I can’t stop thinking about him,†he said.  â€œAnd it’s
a tough thing to think about.â€

SAN
JOSE, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 10: Batman, a San Jose man who wants to
remain anonymous, leaves a box of supplies including water, food
and clothes to a tent where a young child lives in a homeless
encampment under Highway 87 in downtown San Jose, Calif., on
Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

After three and a half hours, he was out of supplies — he’d
handed out about 100 bottles of water and dozens of cans of food.
He was forced to turn back, even though, to his disappointment, he
hadn’t made it to the end of the row of tents. The camps keep
getting bigger, which means he has to bring more supplies.

“It’s definitely gotten worse from when I started,†he
said.

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Batman knows he can’t help everyone, but he hopes to inspire
others to join the effort. And on a small scale, he succeeds.

For his 19th birthday last month, a group of his friends
surprised him by coming out to the homeless camps with him.

“I want to show that literally anybody can do this,†he
said. “You don’t have to be super-rich to do this. You don’t
have to be super old or super young. You can be whatever age. You
can be anybody.â€

Want to help? Here’s how to contribute to Batman’s
homeless relief fund:

Venmo: Batman-4-Homeless

Patreon: patreon.com/user?u=34409123 

 

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
For homeless residents in San Jose, this 19-year-old is a
true superhero