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4 Homeless People Die From Exposure To Cold In South Bay Encampments

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Homeless encampment near Mineta San Jose International Airport. (CBS)

Homeless encampment near Mineta San Jose International Airport. (CBS)

Betsy Gebhart
Betsy Gebhart has been a reporter in the KCBS Santa Clara county...
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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – Santa Clara County’s homeless program will place 375 additional beds in three shelters in response to the deaths of four homeless people attributed to cold weather since Nov. 28, a spokeswoman said Friday.

Jenny Niklaus, spokeswoman for EHC Lifebuilders, a non-profit that coordinates the county’s homeless programs, said the extra beds would be in place in its shelters in San Jose, Sunnyvale and Gilroy until Monday “while the cold weather is here.”

“We want to try to get folks in shelter who need shelter,” Niklaus said.

“What’s really important is that this should not be happening in this community,” she said.

Niklaus spoke at a news conference held Friday afternoon at the sheriff’s office in San Jose with county health officer Dr. Sara Cody and Lt. Dave Lera, assistant division commander for the county medical examiner’s office.

Four homeless people died from hypothermia, the first on Nov. 28, then one on Monday and two on Wednesday, based the results of autopsies, according to Lera.

All of the homeless men who died from exposure were male and ranged in age from their late 40s to 50s. Three passed away in San Jose and one in Saratoga, Lera said.

On Nov. 28, the first body was found beneath a bridge under state Route 87 at Delmas Avenue next to Interstate 280, south of downtown San Jose, Lera said.

The second body was recovered on Monday, during the current cold snap, in front of a business in the 600 block of Lincoln Avenue about a block north of I-280, Lera said.

Then on Thursday, two died, one near Curtner Avenue and Canoas Garden Avenue just west of state Route 87, and the other inside a garage in Saratoga that was open to the elements, Lera said.

None of the men’s names are being released, according to the medical examiner’s office.

EHC Lifebuilders just launched its Cold Weather Shelter Program on Tuesday with a total of 275 shelter beds at the Boccardo Reception Center at 2011 Little Orchard St. in San Jose, the Sunnyvale National Guard Armory at 620 E. Maude Ave. in Sunnyvale and the Gilroy National Armory at 8490 Wren Ave. in Gilroy.

For the weekend through Monday, 200 new beds would be installed at the Boccardo center, 100 at the armory in Sunnyvale and 75 at the armory in Gilroy, Niklaus said.

There are currently about 7,600 homeless in Santa Clara County, but the county does not have near the capacity to house them, Niklaus said.

The county would have to assess what to do next if the three shelters were to reach full capacity this weekend, Niklaus said.

The non-profit on Friday distributed 600 blankets to the county’s homeless who are living in encampments, she said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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