Cold snap partially blamed for 6 South Bay homeless deaths

Officials and advocates in Santa Clara County said the current cold snap is costing the lives of some of the most vulnerable people.

"In the cold winter snaps, like this one, people can die in collective numbers. You know, five, 10, 20 people," said Scott Wagers, a homeless advocate and pastor of CHAM Deliverance Ministry.

Statistics from the Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office shows at six unhoused resident deaths in just the past two days.

Four of those people died in San Jose. All were men, ranging in age from their 40s to their 70s.

"Cold doesn’t just cause issues and symptoms and death because of the primary things that we think about, like hypothermia. But it also exacerbates chronic conditions," said Dr. Jeremy Lacocque, an emergency room physician at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

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He said failing health in the unhoused, coupled with cold temperatures can become a fatal combination.

"Really it’s a balance of how much heat your body generates, versus how much it loses," he said. "Their body gets too cold, and eventually if they don’t get help, and they remain cold, their heart can stop."

Late Wednesday afternoon, Wagers and other volunteers handed out shirts, jackets, socks and blankets to help the most vulnerable brave nights where South Bay temperatures drop into the 30s.

"You find them in creek beds, in enclaves, and encampments. And they just don’t see it coming," said Wagers.

Medical experts say telltale signs of hypothermia begin with shivering. It progresses to confusion, and then can advance to hallucinations. If you see someone in crisis, call 911 or your local police department.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter @JesseKTVU and Instagram @jessegontv.