Efforts by local organizations to assist the Bay Area’s homeless take on special meaning this week, given the cold weather and approach of the holidays.

In San Jose, officials gathered this morning for an annual memorial service for those who died on the streets. This year, 67 men and women died while homeless in Santa Clara County.

The event, which took place on one of the region’s coldest days of the year, is organized by EHC LifeBuilders, an organization that operates three homeless shelters in Santa Clara County.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Van Every said about 1,000 shelter beds are available each night during the winter. On any given night, the region has more than 7,000 homeless individuals, according to the latest Santa Clara County Homeless Census and Survey.
“The sad reality is, there’s just not enough beds for everyone,” Van Every said. “There will be people sleeping on the streets this week.”

On Tuesday, Van Every said the organization’s three shelters–two seasonal shelters at National Guard armories in Sunnyvale and Gilroy and one year-round shelter in San Jose–were all at capacity.

The dropping temperatures have resulted in lines at each location, Van Every said. When shelters run out of beds, EHC LifeBuilders tries to connect people to other local service providers, but sometimes people do get turned away.

Van Every advised those seeking shelter to arrive early.

The homeless being remembered today had an average age of 49 when they died, compared with the average life expectancy of 78 in the United States, according to the Santa Clara County medical examiner’s office.

The number of deaths this year represents a roughly 20 percent decrease from the 82 homeless who died in 2008, according to EHC LifeBuilders.

The memorial took place at the Boccardo Reception Center at 2011 Little Orchard St. in San Jose.

San Francisco’s Project Homeless Connect is hosting one of its recurring events at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium today, offering a one-stop destination where people can receive free services like flu shots, legal assistance, and haircuts. Today’s Project Homeless Connect was planned from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

While the project has been sponsoring these events regularly for five years, spokesman Kevin McCormack said today’s is especially important because it gives attendees a chance to get out of the cold for a few hours, and gives them access to coats and other winter necessities.

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