MIR SAYED’S CONNECTION to the world just got a whole lot stronger.

The homeless blind and hearing-impaired senior, who spends his days listening to a radio, received a surge of community support to help him stayed housed after San José Spotlight reported about his potential eviction. The 93-year-old initially had just enough funds to stay in his Sunnyvale motel room until the end of the month and faced an uncertain life on the streets if left unhoused. That changed when the GoFundMe page to help Sayed raised more than $42,000 as of Monday afternoon.

“I’m blind, I cannot see, but I feel (their) touch,” Sayed said in a thank-you video posted on the GoFundMe page. “There’s a lot of people who are helping me.”

Sayed is one of thousands of seniors battling housing insecurity in Silicon Valley. Last year, 146 seniors died on the streets out of 246 total homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. With his glaucoma and cataracts, Sayed is prevented from staying in a shelter since he cannot independently care for himself. Members of Helping Hands Silicon Valley, a Sunnyvale-based housing nonprofit, have been responsible for making sure he stays housed and fed.

Rose Gregorio, Sunnyvale homeless advocate and creator of Sayed’s GoFundMe page, said the outpouring of funds and support from the community has been a welcome surprise. Gregorio has been working with Sayed since Christmas and often stops by with food.

“So many people responded to my request,” Gregorio said in the thank-you video. “It’s so overwhelming how people care.”

(Video courtesy of Rose Gregorio/YouTube)

Galen Kim Davis, former chair of Livable Sunnyvale, said stories like Sayed’s will become increasingly common as the city’s homeless population remains sizable. Santa Clara County data shows that Sunnyvale had 624 homeless residents in 2019 and 385 in 2022. Despite the drop, less than a third of those residents, 106, were sheltered in 2022.

“You could find more equally heartbreaking stories, and it’s unfortunate,” Davis told San José Spotlight. “I am heartened to hear that there’s been a great response from the community in Sunnyvale.”

In a city where the average price of a home is more than $2 million, according to Zillow as of last November, Davis said affordable housing is a vital priority for both city and county officials.

Sunnyvale Councilmember Alysa Cisneros said elected officials take resident feedback into account on housing issues, and those decisions are especially difficult in a divisive climate.

“One of the big reasons why it’s difficult to build enough shelters… and affordable apartments to rehouse people like Mr. Sayed is because a vocal minority of residents show up to government meetings to oppose such things,” Cisneros told San José Spotlight. “I ask people who are moved by this story… to be a counterweight to those who would want to banish Mr. Sayed and people like him.”

“You could find more equally heartbreaking stories, and it’s unfortunate. I am heartened to hear that there’s been a great response from the community in Sunnyvale.”

Galen Kim Davis, former chair of Livable Sunnyvale

Sunnyvale Councilmember Richard Mehlinger said Sayed’s situation is part of a broader housing struggle in the city, from multiple families living in one apartment to workers being unable to afford housing close to work. He said long-term projects could include additional shelter beds, more low-income and senior housing and better tenant protections.

“Fundamentally, the driving factor here is a shortage of housing,” Mehlinger told San José Spotlight.

Gregorio said for Sayed, community support means he is able to stay in his motel room for a long time. Helping Hands Silicon Valley members are working to figure out if a more permanent housing solution can be established for Sayed, Gregorio said in the thank-you video.

Sayed sat on his bed, angling his head to hear Gregorio repeat the staggering amount the fundraiser pulled in. He focused not on the funds, but on the people who made it possible.

“All I can do is pray to God to reward them because I have nothing to give them,” Sayed said in the video.

Contact Loan-Anh Pham at loan-anh@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.

This story originally appeared in San Jose Spotlight.

Loan-Anh Pham | San Jose Spotlight

San Jose Spotlight