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"San Jose: Four people die of exposure overnight, three of them at homeless encampments"
by Mark Emmons from "San Jose Mercury News" [http://www.insidebayarea.com/news/ci_24672215/san-jose-four-people-die-exposure-overnight-three]:
The Santa Clara County coroner's office confirmed four people died of hypothermia-related causes Thursday night as temperatures plunged below freezing.
Sources say that three of the people died of exposure in three separate homeless encampments while a fourth person died in a garage during the cold snap.
The coroner's office declined further comment early Friday afternoon. The Santa Clara County Office of Emergency Services referred questions to a county spokesperson, who did not immediately return phone calls.
"I'm just angry," said Jenny Niklaus, the CEO of EHC LifeBuilders, a provider of homeless services. "We have to solve this problem. Even with our cold-weather shelters open, there are still people out there. This is what happens when we allow homelessness to happen. People die."
A line forms outside the National Guard Armory, Sunnyvale, one of the cold-weather shelters that opened this week; 2009 photograph. (Josie Lepe, Mercury News)
Temperatures throughout the greater San Jose area reached a low in the mid-20s in the overnight hours, according to the National Weather Service. The low at Mineta San Jose International Airport was 30 degrees, breaking the previous Dec. 6 record of 32 degrees in 1931.
More freezing weather is expected later this weekend.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, who has been an advocate of funding programs that help get chronically homeless into permanent housing, said the deaths are just the latest example of the seriousness of the problem.
"People are dying out there, and it's just wrong," Wasserman said. "I hope to god this never happens again. You have to understand that every single person in these encampments is somebody's son or daughter, brother or sister, mother or father. And yet they've been just abandoned."
EHC LifeBuilders opened up its county-funded Cold Weather Shelter Program last Monday night with 275 emergency beds at three sites in advance of the cold snap. After these deaths, an additional 200 to 300 temporary beds were being added. Also, the shelters will remain open for additional two hours in the morning.
Outreach workers from the agency as well as other local nonprofits InnVision Shelter Network, the Bill Wilson Center and Downtown Streets Team spent Friday combing the encampments, parks and streets as they handed out blankets and encouraged people to go to the shelters.
"We've got a cold weekend ahead of us and our goal is make sure nobody has to be outdoors," Niklaus said. "But the fact is there are more people outside than we have beds. We're doing what we can, and I don't want to lose any more people. This is a crisis."
San Jose/Santa Clara County has the fifth-largest homeless population in the country behind only New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Diego, according to a recent U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report.
Of the 7,631 homeless, who were counted in January as part of a nationwide census, 74 percent were listed as "unsheltered" -- meaning they have no place suitable for human habitation to stay. It has been estimated that on any given night, there are 5,000 people outside in the county.
Evening temperatures in San Jose were expected to warm up Friday night and then drop back to around 30 degrees on Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service.
"The question we have to ask ourselves is how many people have to do die?" said Jennifer Loving, executive director of the nonprofit Destination: Home. "It's cold outside and people can't survive when it's freezing. That's just a fact. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone."
The deaths are a sad reminder of just how dangerous it is to be homeless. On Dec. 19, EHC LifeBuilders will hold its annual memorial ceremony remembering those who have died on the streets over the past year. Niklaus believes the total will be more than 40 this year.
"San Jose: Four people die of exposure overnight"
2013-12-06 Note from Chuck Jagoda:
Yet Sunnyvale's armory shelter--in which homeless would NOT have frozen to death and the 150 safe, warm shelter beds inside the armory--is set to be destroyed after this winter.
It is to be "replaced" by 47 "permanent" (which means as long as the residents have left after years of homelessness) housing. This is a pure joke. No one is buying or renting or living in the other "permanent housing" that has been built near the armory. At night from the armory parking lot you can see the rows upon rows of dark windows--no one is in those homes. What makes anyone thinks 47 more units will house presently homeless people there? And even if that does happen, what about the 100 presently homeless who will no longer have a place to sleep in the winter? (Assuming 47 will be in the permanent housing that will "replace" the armory)
There is nothing wrong with building permanent housing, using a Housing First approach, or making more permanent housing available to unsheltered people. All are great ideas.
What is VERY wrong is the destruction of viable temporary shelter. Does anyone think that such shelter won't be needed next winter? If such a person exists (pay attention Housing, Homeless, and other officials) thinks so, let him/her answer this? If three houseless folks died WITH the alternative of an armory, how many do you think will die WITHOUT that protection?
From someone who's been homeless in Santa Clara County for four years to anyone who cares about the survival of unhoused people--please do not continue to subtract temporary shelter opportunities until and unless there are no homeless people still alive who need them.
The promise of permanent housing is a wonderful thing--and a long road--and a government promise. I remember other government promises--like Urban Renewal, fifty years ago. It really turned out to be Urban Removal--as perfectly viable neighborhoods (at least in some cases) were destroyed and nothing was built to replace them.
As one Holocaust survivor put it--"You don't throw out dirty water until you have clean water." That is survival mode. That is what unsheltered people live in--survival mode. Do you know that homeless people die at four times the rate of non-homeless? Did four housed people freeze to death in Santa Clara County while these four homeless people did? I didn't read about it and I doubt it happened
None of the officials who so easily talk about permanent housing for 47 people as justification or even explanation for destroying the 150 shelter beds at the armory--I very much doubt that any of them would give up their present lodging for a PROMISE of permanent shelter at some future, unspecified, date. Yet that is the plan they actually, publicly are trying to sell.
Please don't ask us to accept a bad bargain none of you would look at twice if it involved you or your loved ones!
2013-12-06 Note from Dianne:
I remember the armory like it was yesterday.
Stood in line there. Spent Christmas there.
Some nights we would be turned away after being in line for hours.
It was so cold at night I was thankful to have a car to sleep in.
I had to sleep sitting up because of my two kids.
It was soooo cold I would waste a little gas to keep the car warm.