Heat claims lives in South Bay homeless encampments: advocates

High temperatures are taking a toll on San Jose's homeless encampments.

"It's hot out here. It's hot. There are people dying. There's a lot of elderly people out here," said Edward Ponce, who is unhoused.

Four homeless men, all in their 60s, have died in just the last week in Santa Clara County. Advocates said a fifth person has yet to be added to the official tally.

"It is seniors who are always paying the ultimate price for being unhoused," said Shaunn Cartwright with the Unhoused Response Group.

In at least one of the cases, heat was listed as contributing to the cause of death. For the others, it has yet to be determined. But advocates said the temperature is usually a factor.


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Volunteers spent their 4th of July providing basic necessities like ice and water to people experiencing homelessness in San Jose after a 69-year-old homeless man died on Monterey Rd on Tuesday from the intense heat, according to Mayor Matt Mahan.

"People out here have diabetes, hypertension, a variety of heart issues. And all of those are exacerbated by being out in the heat," said Cartwright.

Santa Clara County officials are devastated by the deaths.

"It seems as though everyone is doing their part, and yet it's hard to be satisfied with that outreach when we are losing lives," said Susan Ellenberg, president of the Board of Supervisors.

The county has been operating 18 cooling centers during this heat wave, and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is offering free rides to them. They also have outreach teams bringing water, tarps, tents, and supplies to the encampments.

"When you have an extended heat wave like we've seen over the last week, the impacts just continually compound upon each other," said Shana Kurlan with the Santa Clara County Office of Supportive Housing.

With more heat on the horizon, county officials say they're redoubling their efforts.

"The more that we can do to get the word out about how dangerous the heat is, the better," said Kurlan.