Homeless advocates draft heat policy for homeless in Santa Clara County

A small group of homeless people in the South Bay say Santa Clara County's emergency plan for hot weather days is inconsistent.

So they drafted their own proposal which they hope officials will adopt. They say their policy could save lives.

"Many homeless people are at risk. Lots of elderly people," said Gary Martin, one of the homeless authors of the proposal.

Martin says while Santa Clara County has a cold weather emergency plan when the weather reaches 40 degrees or below, there is no set temperature for when the county triggers its high heat emergency.

That's when the county opens cooling centers and extends shelter hours.

So Martin and about six other homeless clients of the county shelter in Sunnyvale have drafted a heat policy proposal to present to Santa Clara County officials.

It calls for the county to activate its heat plan when the temperature reaches 88 degrees or above and on spare the air days.

"We got together and said we need a formal policy to trigger when heat emergency locations will open," Martin said.

Currently, the county relies on the national weather service and consults various agencies before declaring heat emergencies.

Homeless advocates hope policymakers will listen to the very people they are trying to help.

"So many people discount homeless people that they have nothing to offer society. Having homeless people write a policy that could change the lives of 10,000 homeless people. That's empowerment," said advocate Shaunn Cartwright.

The five-page policy also calls for the county to set up air-conditioned tents near homeless encampments and for social services.

"We don't have to be helpless victims. We can have a voice," said Martin.

The Santa Clara County office of supportive housing issued a statement:

A county board of supervisors subcommittee is expected to consider it in two weeks.