By Kiet Do

SUNNYVALE (KPIX) – The cold and chilly nights have cities around the Bay Area taking extra measures to protect their most vulnerable residents who sleep outside on the streets. They are setting up warming shelters for homeless residents.

But when it comes to when these shelters open up, it’s all about the numbers. Over the past couple of nights, those numbers have added up to a lot of misery and suffering on the streets.

At the Sunnyvale shelter on Hamlin Court, just like homeless shelters all across the county, they are gearing up for another windy, frigid night.

They do so by making space for temporary beds. In reality, it’s just a thin mattress on the concrete floor.

Andrea Urton is the CEO of Home First Services. She was homeless herself for several years as a teenager.

“What does a 2” rubber mat mean to somebody on a night like tonight? Well, they’re not in the mud somewhere,” says Urton. “They’re inside a building where they know they’re going to be warm. They’re offered a clean blanket. They’re offered a hot meal.”

Santa Clara County recently bumped up the temperature range under which the shelters open.

The overnight low only needs to drop to 40 degrees or lower. When there’s a 50 percent chance of rain, or 48 hours or more of precipitation, shelters open when it dips to 45 degrees or lower.

“I think it’s great,” says Urton. “I think it provides more people the opportunity to come in and be safe and be warm, they don’t have to wait until they’re absolutely freezing. They know that when they start to get bitter cold, they will have a respite.”

Michelle Covert with the county’s Office of Supportive Housing, says the cold weather has triggered a total of 150 temporary beds to open up at two dozen churches, community centers, and even libraries.

“They’re kind of de facto safe places for people to go,” says Covert. “I think libraries and community centers have always informally been daytime centers for homeless individuals. Now, it’s a more official program.”

Brian Hargrave is homeless. He says a shelter on a freezing night is a blessing.

“You tend to have peace of mind you know. You don’t constantly have to look over your shoulder and worry is this guy gonna attack me, or what’s gonna happen here, you know,” says Hargrave. “It takes a lot of the stress, worry and day to day stress away from you.”

Hargrave says the shelters don’t just keep people warm. They save lives.

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