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Silicon Valley’s Homeless Turning To Public Transit For Shelter

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A man sleeps on the VTA 22 bus. (CBS)

A man sleeps on the VTA 22 bus. (CBS)

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PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) – As shelters fill up for the first real cold spell of the season, some South Bay homeless are turning to the public transit system to find a warm place to sleep.

Known as “Hotel 22″, the Valley Transportation Authority’s 22 bus operates 24 hours a day between the Eastridge Mall and Palo Alto, some of the most valuable real estate in the country. For many, a night spent circling the South Bay on the bus is the best option to keep out of danger.

“It’s safer to be on that bus than anywhere else, and so it has become, by default, a shelter.” says Jenny Niklaus, CEO of EHC LifeBuilders, a group committed to ending homelessness. “It’s just a moving shelter overnight.”

For James Breslin, a 55-year-old former tech worker who has fallen on hard times, the dry VTA bus is a bargain at just $2.50 a ride. If not for the bus, he said he would be sleeping next to a PG&E transformer box to keep warm.

“(It is) safer than being out in the street, warmer than being out in the street,” said Breslin. “I don’t want to ride the bus all night but it’s the best thing, rather than going to a hospital and hanging out there.”

The VTA doesn’t have a good estimate on how many or how long the homeless have been visiting “Hotel 22,” but say it has been years. Agency representatives have said they don’t mind, so long as the homeless pay their fare.

“It’s really a tragic event when you think about the amount of creativity and innovation and power and money we have in this community, we still have people riding a bus at night to stay safe,” said Niklaus.

An estimated 5,000 people are homeless on the streets of Santa Clara County every night. As temperatures drop, seats on the bus will likely fill up.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

 

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