Unhoused People Who Died on South Bay Streets Remembered During Service

Nearly 250 unhoused people died on South Bay streets this past year. They were all remembered Wednesday during a memorial service.

Outside the Santa Clara County building, 246 headstones were spread across the plaza, each one representing a victim. The number includes three children.

“There’s a great shame that 246 people are dying on the streets,” Unhoused Response Group co-founder Shaunn Cartwright said.

Another headstone said “some died of preventable causes like pneumonia, some died from addiction, but all died due to their homelessness.”

“They went to the same high schools that the rest of us went to,” SCC Homeless Union President Robert Aguirre said. “They worked at the same jobs that all of us worked at. They’re part of our community. They’re just suffering as a result of something that happened to them.”

Multiple homeless advocates joined local religious leaders to remember the lost. The annual remembrance is held on the first day of winter, which has the longest night of the year.

The gathering also provided an opportunity to talk about solutions to homelessness in the shadow of the county government.

“There has to be a middle ground of doing something short-term to get people out of the streets while you build this long-term housing,” Cartwright said.

San Jose Mayor-elect Matt Mahan said homelessness is the biggest crisis and challenge in the community.

“We need to be willing to talk about sanctioned encampments,” he said. “We need to be willing to talk about scaling up interim housing.”

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