Four homeless men died on Tuesday in California’s Santa Clara County as temperatures continue to hit freezing point.
Three of the deceased have been described as Asian or Hispanic and at least 50 years old, according to KTVU. The incidents add to the county’s alarming homeless death toll, which reached 246 as of last week, according to the San José Spotlight. Any more reported deaths will make 2022’s toll the highest in the last decade, beating last year’s 250.
Shaunn Cartwright, founder of the Unhoused Response Group, told KTVU that December can be among the deadliest months of the year, particularly for transient seniors. Of the 250 homeless people who died last year, 146 were elderly people.
“When it’s 30 degrees and 40 degrees at night for long stretches of time, this is how people die,” he said. “It’s so cold and it’s so wet.”
Last week, around 70 residents gathered in McEntee Plaza for a memorial service for the homeless who died between December 2021 and November of this year.
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The event featured several makeshift tombstones bearing the names of the deceased.
“We want to do something to bring awareness about the reality facing many unhoused people in the area,” Girish Shah, board chair for the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council, which hosts the annual event, told the San José Spotlight. “People think unhoused people are drunks or all mentally ill, that’s not the case.”
Records reportedly show that one of the four men who died on Tuesday had passed away in a San Jose hotel room. Cartwright explained to KTVU that staying off the streets for even a night can cause shock to someone’s system.
“They could’ve rented a hotel because people end up giving money to people during the holidays. But for some people, it’s just that your body is in such fight or flight mode, that when you actually get a hotel for even just a night, your body just gives out on you,” Cartwright said.
HomeFirst, a local nonprofit, provides two overnight warming locations for those who need shelter amid the biting cold. These will run from Nov. 15 to April 30, 2023.