Santa Clara County Shelter Beds Increase as Temperatures Fall

Homeless shelters will make more beds available through Friday because of the frigid weather, local housing officials said.

Santa Clara County’s Office of Supportive Housing can expand its shelter capacity when there’s a forecasted cold snap and rainfall. Specifically, when there’s a forecasted overnight low of 30-something degrees or less and a chance of rain.

This is the fifth time since Nov. 29 that the county has declared what it calls an inclement weather episode and opened up more shelter for those with nowhere else to sleep.

On the coldest nights, overnight capacity at the Gilroy Armory will expand from 130 to 180 beds. Fifty of those will be available on a first come, first serve basis. Overnight capacity at the Boccardo Reception Center off of Little Orchard Road in San Jose will increase from 250 to 350 beds with 100 open to the first people who show up.

Since freezing weather swept through the South Bay this season, some 411 people have found shelter at Boccardo, Gilroy Armory or one of four overnight warming centers.

Those looking for brief reprieve from the cold can duck into the Gilroy Compassion Center, 370 Tomkins Court from 8am to noon during the workweek. Meanwhile, HomeFirst is making a call for donations of blankets, rain ponchos, towels, socks, small toiletries deodorants and shirts.

The dropping temperatures are especially concerning in light of recent news that the number of homeless people dying in Silicon Valley jumped dramatically from 2015 to last year, as San Jose Inside first reported. Local officials say they have no idea why the death toll more than doubled in the span of a year, but an investigation is underway.

Probes in other cities have found that fatalities among the unsheltered population are largely preventable and often due to exposure or a lack of basic medical care for treatable conditions. Keith Saldivar, who spent a collective three decades on the streets, said the constant sweeps that clear local homeless camps take a huge toll on people’s health.

“I know a couple people right now out there who have pneumonia just because they’re out there in the cold,” said Saldivar, who plans to hand out sleeping bags to the unsheltered this weekend. “This is what homelessness is: you struggle to find a place, you struggle to stay warm and when you do, they tear it all down. It’s basically a constant state of trauma.”

Unfortunately, the available shelter space is far too little to accommodate the thousands of people who sleep on the streets, in cars, abandoned buildings or encampments. More than 70 percent of the local homeless population is unsheltered. Thats’s about 4,600 people, according to a 2015 point-in-time census, which is considered a conservative count.

A coalition of local churches and volunteers called the Winter Faith Collaborative have been working around the clock to make sure as many people have a safe place to stay during these cold, wet nights. Click here for information about how to reach them. Another group will be handing out free sleeping bags for the unhoused on Saturday. Click here for information about that event. Faith in Action is another volunteer collaborative that offers rotating shelters through the cold months. Click here to contact them.

Below is some info from the county to help people prepare for the winter weather.

Safety tips during cold weather

  • If possible, avoid being outside during the coldest part of the day, or for extended periods of time in extreme cold weather
  • Dress in layers
  • Wear a hat if possible, preferably one that covers your ears
  • Mittens provide more warmth than gloves
  • Wear waterproof, insulated boots to avoid hypothermia or frostbite
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get out of wet clothes as soon as possible
  • Drinking alcohol and staying outside in cold temperatures can be deadly. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol if you will be staying outside 

About hypothermia

Hypothermia is a medical emergency that happens when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops below 95F.

People who are 65 and older, or very young children are at a higher risk for hypothermia. Alcohol, drug use and medications can also increase the risk for hypothermia. Left untreated, hypothermia limits your nervous system from working correctly. It can cause a complete failure of your heart, respiratory system, and it can even be fatal. Symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Exhaustion
  • Severe shivering
  • Clumsiness and lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech or mumbling
  • Drowsiness or very low energy
  • Weak pulse
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Progressive loss of consciousness

Seek medical attention if you experience some of these symptoms. 

SHELTER INFORMATION

Gilroy Winter Shelter 
National Guard Armory
8490 Wren Ave., Gilroy
408.848.8023 (during operating hours only) or 408.489.8781

This shelter has a capacity of 130 beds and serves adults and families by referral only.  However, during inclement weather episode, additional 50 beds are added on a first-come, first-served basis. It will be open from 6pm to 6am daily. Clients must be onsite by 6pm for intake. The shelter will provide a warm bed, two nutritious meals, and a hot shower. A variety of supportive services will also be offered, including guidance to help set short-term goals, employment resources, medical care, and referrals to other services. Volunteers provide haircuts and donated toiletries and clothing is available to those who need them. Finally, limited case management services will be provided by St. Joseph’s Family Center.

Ochoa Winter Family Shelter, Arturo Ochoa Migrant Center
Southside Road, Gilroy
408.842.6662, ext. 21

This shelter will serve 35 homeless families who will be sheltered in individual units. St. Joseph’s Family Center will provide intensive case management services to all the families, enabling them to receive the appropriate assistance they need to make the transition to stable housing. Referrals are handled by St. Joseph’s. This program is currently full and has a waitlist.

North County Winter Shelter—referrals only
999 Hamlin Ct., Sunnyvale
408.854.4670

This shelter will serve adults and families, with beds for up to 125 people. North county service providers, city staff, law enforcement and HomeFirst staff handle referrals. This site is not able to increase capacity and will be open from 5pm to 9am, daily. Clients must be onsite by 5pm for intake. The shelter will provide a warm bed, two nutritious meals, and a hot shower. A variety of supportive services will also be offered, including guidance to help set short-term goals, employment resources, medical care, and referrals to other services. Volunteers provide haircuts and donated toiletries and clothing are available to those who need them. This shelter does not expand its capacity during declared inclement weather episodes.

Boccardo Reception Center
2011 Little Orchard St., San Jose
408.510.7502

This shelter serves adults only. All beds that are not in use by regular programs will be made available up to the shelter’s capacity of 250. The shelter opens at 4pm. Clients must be onsite by 3:30pm. to join the lottery for bed assignments. The shelter provides a warm bed, two nutritious meals, and a hot shower. A variety of supportive services are also offered, including guidance to help set short-term goals, employment resources, medical care, and referrals to other services. Volunteers provide haircuts and donated toiletries and clothing is available to those who need them. 

Sites below offer additional beds during inclement weather.

Bill Wilson Center
693 S. Second St., San Jose
408.925.0231

City Team Ministries
1174 Old Bayshore Highway, San Jose
408.288.2153

Montgomery Street Inn
358 N. Montgomery St., San Jose
408.271.5160 

Georgia Travis House
260 Commercial St., San Jose
408.271.1630

Project WeHOPE
1854 Bay Road, East Palo Alto
650.330.8000

Salvation Army
359 N. Fourth St., San Jose
408.282.1175

City of San Jose Warming Centers
Each warming center has a capacity of 30 beds, with operating hours from 9pm to 8am. Call 408.510.7600 for more information.

  • Bascom Community Center, 1000 S. Bascom Ave.
  • Tully Community Library, 880 Tully Road
  • Biblioteca Latino-Americana Branch Library, 921 S. First St.
  • Washington United Youth Center (Family Overnight Warming Center), 921 S. First St., Suite B

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

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