San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Street Santas Bring Cheer to Homeless

Christmas came early for the homeless of San José as parcels of food and clothing were distributed throughout the city’s poorest areas by an international brigade of Santa Clauses.

Forty-five self-proclaimed “street Santas,” traveling in the back of 12 pickups and one larger truck, handed out more than 200 bowls of spaghetti, 500 cartons of juice and hundreds of parcels containing clothing and blankets to those living on the capital’s streets.

Eighteen cities, including London, Miami and Madrid, now participate in the worldwide Santa in the Streets Christmas handout, which took place in San José last Sunday.

“It went extremely well,” said organizer Jesús Palacios, a 22-year-old Venezuelan who resides in San José. “We started the convoy at 6 p.m. on Sunday and finished at 1 a.m. Monday morning.”

“We gave away all of the food, all of the blankets and all of the men’s clothing,” he added. “We were still left with a few parcels of children’s clothing, which we will donate to orphanages this week.”

It is the second year running that San José has taken part in the charitable event. The idea originated in Venezuela in 2006 when a group of friends decided to bring a little festive cheer to the less fortunate. Since then, companies and individual donors have given food, clothing and money to the cause.

The 45 San José volunteers started the operation at 7 a.m. from the main playground of Colegio Don Bosco de Altamira, where they organized and packaged the food and clothing donations before setting out for the city streets, wearing Santa hats and riding in the backs of pickups.

The convoy’s route encompassed the south side of the city, the notoriously seedy Coca-Cola bus terminal district, and Barrio La California. The street Santas stopped traffic along the way and brought cheers and smiles not only from the homeless, but also from drivers and pedestrians impressed by the show of kindness.

Volunteer Jorge Solano, a 17-year-old student at Colegio Don Bosco de Altamira said, “I read about the project in a Sunday paper and decided I wanted to help. I’ve worked in an orphanage before and enjoy volunteering. It’s a great cause.”

As word spread among the homeless community, scores of men and women, desperate  to get their hands on a clothing parcel and food container, emerged from their cardboard shelters and chased the fleet of trucks as it snaked through the busy streets of the capital

The clothing packages included two pairs of trousers, a jacket and two shirts, and were split into three categories tailored for men, women and children.

“It makes you want to cry, seeing the smile on these people’s faces when they receive their gifts,” said volunteer Ester Porras, a San José accountant. “It’s nice to give

something back.”

For information on the

Costa Rican street

Santa program, visit or call 2213-7675 or 8882-9719.

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