San Jose is revamping its program of providing overnight warming locations–known as OWLS.
Instead of opening multiple locations but only during short periods of very cold or very wet weather as it did last year, the city will now open only two locations but keep them open every night from now until April.
“I slept with my feet frozen, even though my dog was right there. I mean I had the blankets over my head and still I was freezing,” said Tavia Jones, who lives in a tent next to the Guadalupe River in downtown San Jose.
Jones said she’s bracing for even colder weather to set in which could kill some people on the streets.
“It’s gotten to the point where we just accept the deaths, and we shouldn’t have to.”
San Jose is planning to open two overnight warming locations at the Roosevelt Community Center and the Bascom Community Center every night from now until April.
Homeless people can come in off the streets and sleep on bedding on the floors of dance studios, which are located right next to restrooms and showers.
“They bring a little food and coffee,” said Joyce Brennan, who stayed in an owl center last winter.
“They bring mats and blankets and they work very hard to help people,” she said.
But the two centers can only shelter about 60 people. An estimated 5,000 live on San Jose Streets.
“We know the need is great, but we only have the financial resources to do these two city facilities,” said Ragan Henninger of the San Jose Housing Department.
The city is spending about $1.5 million on the two centers, which now require a referral and will also include counseling and case management, in addition to food, showers and shelter.
But Tavia Jones said that may be too many hoops to jump through for some people on the streets. She wishes the city would do more to just open doors and let people in.
“We need more warming centers and we need them not only by referral,” she said.
San Jose says on nights when there are overflow crowds seeking shelter, people will be referred to churches or other places where shelter will be provided.