South Bay Remembers 48 Homeless Deaths

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Bay Area
    A homeless encampment in San Jose, Calif., is seen in this file image.

    City and county officials and others attended a memorial ceremony  on Thursday for 48 homeless people who died in Santa Clara County this year and  whose names will be added to a memorial to 1,121 homeless who have perished  in the county since 1999.

    County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, county chief executive officer  Gary Graves, San Jose Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen and Councilman Ash Kalra were  among those who read aloud the names of the homeless victims at the ceremony  in the Boccardo Reception Center shelter in San Jose.

    The names will be placed on the county's homeless memorial outside  the 250-bed Boccardo center, which is the largest shelter in the county,  according to Jenny Niklaus, chief executive of the non-profit EHC  LifeBuilders that manages the county's homeless program.

    During the ceremony, about 50 people including about a dozen  residents of the Boccardo center sat in chairs beside rows of bunk beds  inside the homeless shelter, located in an industrial area at 2011 Little  Orchard Drive.

    "The folks who we remember today may not have anyone to remember  them but us," Niklaus said to the audience.

    San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed told the gathering that the city, county  and its community and business partners have realized how to solve the  homeless problem and have financing for it in place.

    "If we can get them in a home and stabilize their lives, they have  the capacity and we have the capacity to deal with them," Reed said.

    "They need homes," Reed said. "We know how to do it, we can do it,  so there's hope... We just have to be smart enough to do it. We have the  resources to do it."

    After the service, Niklaus said that the overall solution for the  county's more than 7,000 homeless people is more inexpensive housing in  general within the county.

    "We need like 100,000 more units of affordable housing in this  community, not just for homeless people, but for all people in the low income  ranges," Niklaus said.

    "It's housing first," she said. "Getting people in housing and  figuring out how to get them to stay there."

    Niklaus said the list of 48 people who have died on the streets  within the county so far in 2013 does not include four men -- three in San  Jose and one in Saratoga - who, according to the county medical examiner's  office, succumbed due to hypothermia in unseasonably low temperatures from  Nov. 28 to Dec. 5.

    This year's death toll is 10 more than 2012's, likely because  there are more homeless people in the area than last year, according to  Niklaus.

    The shelter has held ceremonies each year since 1999 honoring the  homeless who died in the county. Including this year's group, 1,121 homeless  have been found dead in the county in that 14-year span, according to the  Boccardo shelter's staff.

    At the ceremony, San Jose-based computer networking firm Cisco  Systems Inc. was presented the Jim McEntee LifeBuilder Award for its  financial support for county homeless programs.