A non-profit group on Monday started offering 275 shelter beds for the homeless during the cold weather season in Santa Clara County, which has one of the highest homeless populations in the country, a spokeswoman said.
EHC LifeBuilders, based in San Jose, launched its annual Cold Weather Shelter Program with 50 beds in San Jose, 125 in Sunnyvale and 100 in Gilroy, according to Jenny Niklaus, the organization's chief executive.
The shelters include the Boccardo Reception Center at 2011 Little Orchard St. in San Jose, the Sunnyvale National Guard Armory at 620 E. Maude Ave. in Sunnyvale and the Gilroy National Armory at 8490 Wren Ave. in Gilroy, Niklaus said.
The shelters will be open for the cold winter months through the end of March, Niklaus said.
People may stay at the shelters from night to night on a first come, first served basis at the armories and based on a lottery system, with names chosen from a bucket, at the Boccardo center in San Jose, Niklaus said.
Each person in the Cold Weather Shelter Program gets dinner and breakfast and a hot shower in addition to their bed for the night, Niklaus said.
Overnight residents at the Boccardo facility in San Jose are admitted at 3:30 p.m., while those entering the Sunnyvale and Gilroy armories are admitted at 6 p.m., Niklaus said.
People are normally discharged between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. the following day expect when it is cold outside in which case they may stay for longer periods, Niklaus said.
Santa Clara County has fifth highest number of homeless people in the United States, behind New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Diego, Niklaus said.
Based on the Santa Clara County 2013 Homeless Census and Survey, 7,631 homeless people were recorded living in the county and three out of four were living on streets, in cars or at encampments in the cold, according to Niklaus.
The number of homeless people increased by 8 percent within the county and 18 percent in San Jose compared to the last homeless census taken in 2011, Niklaus said.
The Cold Weather Shelter Program provided a temporary refuge for 2,897 men, women, children, seniors and veterans during the cold winter months last year, she said.