SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – Four homeless people have died of hypothermia in the San Francisco Bay Area since last week, authorities said, highlighting the danger to people without shelter as the region is gripped by freezing temperatures.
Santa Clara County sheriff’s Lt. Dave Lera said at a news conference Friday afternoon that the victims were all men in their late 40s or early 50s.
“I’ve met with the doctors and they informed me that hypothermia played a role in all of the deaths,” Lera said.
The men’s names and exact ages were not released, but Lera said three of the victims died at homeless encampments in San Jose, while a fourth died in a garage “with the door opened.”
One victim was found dead Nov. 28, and the other deaths were discovered in the last two days, he added.
Temperatures in San Jose fell to 30 degrees Friday morning, breaking the record low of 32 degrees for that date, which was set in 1904. The low on Nov. 28 was 45 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
The weather service has issued a freeze warning for late Saturday into Sunday morning for the entire San Francisco and Monterey Bay Area except for the city of San Francisco itself. The warning notes there will be an increased risk of hypothermia for those outside overnight, when the temperature is forecast to dip to 31 in San Jose.
Santa Clara County Health Officer Sara Cody said her office is encouraging homeless people to seek shelter during the cold weather to avoid further fatalities.
“We want to try to get folks who don’t have a home into the shelter,” Cody said.
A census conducted in January found there were 7,631 homeless people living in Santa Clara County, many more than the number of shelter beds.
Still others refuse to come to homeless shelters for various reasons, such as not being willing to leave a beloved pet in the cold.
County officials and nonprofit groups are making an effort to provide blankets, socks and ponchos to help unsheltered people protect themselves from the elements.
EHC LifeBuilders, a cold-weather shelter program that opened last month, provides 500 emergency beds throughout the region until the end of March.