South Bay cities open cold shelters

December 1, 2008 11:58:23 PM PST
With more Californians losing their jobs and their homes, unexpected faces are turning-up at Bay Area shelters. There are people who have never needed that kind of help before. Two temporary shelters opened for the winter in the South Bay, but it's not enough.

For San Jose's homeless, this is the lottery they hope to win most nights. It means a spot and a meal at the James Boccardo Homeless Shelter. There are only 250 beds here.

"I had work, a car, a girlfriend, a little of everything," said Andy Nguyen, a former construction worker.
"And now?" asked ABC7's Lisa Amin.
"Pretty much nothing," said Nguyen.

Andy Nguyen is proof that the economy is changing the face of the homelessness. This is his second time in a shelter. He simply can't find consistent construction work.

"We're seeing people that haven't been homeless before that are coming to see us. We're seeing folks in professional fields that are being laid off and lost their jobs and have lost their housing," said Jennifer Loving, a CEO from EHC Lifebuilders.

Those at EHC Lifebuilders noticed a 12 percent rise in need from July to September.

Even though this is San Jose's largest homeless shelter, it's almost always full, which means several times a month, 10 to 30 homeless people are turned away.

Two temporary shelters are now open and available to the homeless in Sunnyvale and in Gilroy. Each can fit 125 people. While shelter operators hope to now accommodate everyone, some are skeptical. Linda Cunningham has been homeless for 13 years. She sees the population getting younger and needing more.

"I feel for them because it's nothing nice to be on the streets. It's terrifying, it's scary," said Linda Cunningham, a homeless person.

At least one night, those who need shelter have found it.