Warming shelters open during hard freeze

December 17, 2008 12:28:15 AM PST
The freezing temperatures are especially dangerous for those living on the streets. And there's concern the cold weather could make the difference between life and death.

"We all lay back in the front seat and go to sleep," said Lenny Serrano, who is homeless.

On most nights, Serrano and his friends sleep in his car.

"She can fit perfectly in the back," said Serrano.

However, on Tuesday night, sleeping in his normal spot wasn't an option because it's too dangerous. Freezing temperatures could be deadly for Santa Clara County's homeless.

"I've had friends that have died out there in the cold, they found them dead and it's not an easy thing to do. And when I think back, I think I don't want to be in that position," said Serrano.

"Whenever I wake up in the morning and see frost on the windshields and I see that it's rained, my heart falls a little bit," said Ray Bramson, from EHC Lifebuilders.

Those who run the area's shelters are afraid for the thousands who are homeless in the county. So far this year, 55 homeless people have died of various causes while living on the streets. Now there's real concern that the winter weather will bring even more deaths.

"In California we are used to that sunny weather, but when we see extreme conditions like this, it's frightening," said Bramson.

San Jose's year round shelter will stay open 24 hours a day, instead of 12, while the freezing temperatures last. And starting Wednesday, the county's two temporary shelters will stay open even longer, during the early morning hours.

"In the early morning, that's when it gets the coldest and that's when it really hits you and if you're out there, I would have to say that's the hardest time on anyone that's staying on the street," said Bryce Chatman, who is homeless.

There are only 500 beds available in Santa Clara County, so obviously, they go very fast.

Click here for a list of warming centers around the Bay Area.


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