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Community concerned over South Bay residents left homeless by deadly heat wave

Community concerned over South Bay residents left homeless by deadly heat wave

The heat wave hitting the Bay Area may have killed more than a dozen people in the South Bay, prompting volunteers to do what they can to help the homeless community.

Shaunn Cartwright has been driving around Santa Clara County for the past week checking on all the people experiencing homelessness.

“People are so hot, they don’t have any energy left,” Cartwright said.

Cartwright is part of the Unhoused Response Group (URG), an all-volunteer team that provides supplies and assistance to the homeless.

He said the recent heatwave remained unbearable for many people living on the streets.

“You go out and you see women wearing minimal clothing and all the men are wearing minimal clothing too and you’re sweating everything out of your hands, everything’s filthy, it’s like you can’t go to the laundromat,” Cartwright said.

According to the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office, 14 deaths are being investigated thought to be potentially heat-related.

Two of those people were homeless and another was a homeless person living in temporary housing. Shaunn said that unfortunately, these numbers did not surprise him.

“Humans can’t handle this kind of heat wave. Your body is not built to basically survive in the heat without food, without water,” Cartwright said.

Cooling Centres have opened across the borough to help people cope with the heat, but Shaunn said these are of little help to the homeless if they are not open throughout the night.

“They should be open overnight to meet the county recommendations and that would really help people, you know, have beds where people can lie down with electrolytes and things like that, give people a little breather but it’s not,” Cartwright said.

Shaunn said he was certain more people would die as temperatures rose above 39C again in the coming days.

“I accept that they’re going to die because no one is pulling themselves together. People say it’s an emergency, but no one’s acting like it’s an emergency,” Cartwright said.

Shaunn said the only thing he could do in the coming days was to check on everyone he knew and provide any help he could.

His hope is that more people will join him in trying to save as many lives as possible.