Plummeting temperatures have prompted Santa Clara County officials to open additional bed spaces to help shelter homeless people through next week.
The county's Office of Supportive Housing and the Office of Emergency Services activated its inclement-weather shelters on Friday, Dec. 28, and plans to keep them open through this Tuesday, Jan. 8 officials said.
The Inclement Weather Plan, which supplements the regular, ongoing cold weather shelter program, activates the shelters under three forecasted conditions: an overnight low temperature of 40 degrees or lower with a probability of rain of less than 50 percent; an overnight low of 45 degrees or lower with a probability of rain of 50 percent or greater and a period of rain for 48 hours or more that is likely to result in flooding. This week, overnight temperatures through this Thursday are forecasted to be in the 30s and are forecasted to be in the low- to mid-40s through Sunday.
A considerable number of people would likely be exposed to the cold without shelter this winter. In North County, defined as Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, and Mountain View, about 1,002 individuals were found to be experiencing homelessness, according to the county's 2017 Homeless Census and Survey, which is taken every two years. Eighty-four percent were living outside of shelters, compared to 74 percent countywide.
Moreover, the county's greater 2017 Homeless Census and Survey identified 7,394 homeless people Santa Clara County. Of all who were homeless, about one-third were unaccompanied children and transition-age youth, 96 percent of whom were unsheltered; one-third were chronically homeless individuals, with about 86 percent unsheltered. About 660 individuals were veterans, with 68 percent being unsheltered, and 294 were families comprising of 1,075 members with 28 percent unsheltered.
But despite these numbers, there aren't enough beds to go around, and the shelters always see more people during freezing-weather nights.
"Typically, when they come in at this time of year the shelters are full to capacity," said Pastor Paul Bains, director of Project WeHOPE, which operates an emergency shelter in neighboring East Palo Alto.
Palo Alto has only the 15-bed Hotel de Zink, operated by the nonprofit organization LifeMoves, and the 15-bed shelter run by Heart and Home Collaborative. The next closest shelter supported by the county is Project WeHOPE in neighboring San Mateo County. The shelter serves residents of both counties and has on average about 50-54 beds.
About 30 of those beds on any given day are occupied by homeless clients through referral programs. But Bains said that currently all of the beds are used for inclement-weather emergency housing. Because of the predicted freezing temperatures, the shelter will accommodate a total of 60 adult men and women, he said. The organization puts families in need into hotels.
Most of the homeless served by Project WeHOPE are female. With an especially limited supply of women-only shelters, the Heart and Home Collaborative, a grassroots volunteer organization, runs its women's shelter out of three rotating Palo Alto churches: Peninsula Bible Church, University Lutheran Church and the Unitarian Universalist Church. This week, the shelter has been set up at Peninsula Bible, said Aparna Ananthasubramaniam, the organization's secretary. The collaborative operates the shelter for six weeks at each location. This year, the shelter opened Dec. 8 and will remain available through April 8, she said.
"We've had no trouble filling the shelter," she said, noting there aren't any spaces currently available, but the organization needs volunteers.
Officials for LifeMoves Hotel de Zink, which operates a rotating shelter at a different church each month in Palo Alto, could not be reached, but clients are referred through the Opportunity Center's case-manager program, said an Opportunity Center staff member who declined to be named. The center, which offers comprehensive services through its drop-in center, refers homeless clients to the 140-bed North County Winter Shelter in Sunnyvale and the 105-bed Armory in Gilroy.
But 725 of the 925 inclement-weather, emergency-shelter beds available to Santa Clara County residents are located in south Santa Clara County. In addition, four overnight warming shelters, some of which have places to sleep, are all located in San Jose. Daytime warming shelters are available throughout the county. In Palo Alto, the site is at the Opportunity Center.
Patty Eaton, spokeswoman for the county's Office of Emergency Services, said that it is possible the county would extend the extra beds based on the weather forecast. Officials look at weather reports and hold a conference call to decide on the days to open the shelters. The county Office of Supportive Housing makes the decision, she added.
People in need of services and emergency-shelter resources and those who wish to volunteer or make donations can contact the following organizations in Palo Alto:
• Heart and Home Collaborative: sleeping mats, meals — by referral. hhcollab.org; firstname.lastname@example.org
• Project WeHOPE:, 1854 Bay Road, East Palo Alto, daily 4:30 p.m.-7:30 a.m. — by referral and drop-in. 650-779-4635.
• The Opportunity Center:, 33 Encina Ave., Palo Alto, Monday-Friday 8 a.m-4 p.m. Closed on Jan. 1, 2019. Refers to different locations for shelter; offers comprehensive services. 650-853-0321.
• Hotel de Zink: Contact the Opportunity Center — By referral.
• North County Winter Shelter: — Operated by HomeFirst — 999 Hamlin Court, Sunnyvale, 5 p.m.-8 a.m. daily — by referral. 408- 854-4670.
Anyone in need is encouraged to call the following county hotlines for services:
• 2-1-1: For health and human services in Santa Clara County.
• Homeless Helpline: County Office of Supportive Housing, 408-793-0550 to ask for assistance or report a homeless person in need in Santa Clara County (excluding San Jose).
• HomeFirst Homeless Helpline: 408-510-7600 or email the HomeFirst Helpline at Outreach@homefirstscc.org.
A complete list of warming shelters and overnight emergency shelters can be found here.
Homeless individuals can register to receive text messages about services by sending a text to 888777 with BADWEATHER in the message.