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Economy

Remembering Those Who Died on South Bay Streets

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Peter Jon Shuler/KQED News

Candles honor 39 homeless people who died on Santa Clara County streets this year.

A somber crowd gathered in San Jose on Thursday to honor the men and women who died while living on the streets this year.
 
There were 39 candles at the annual event, in memory of people ranging in age from 23 to 81 years old who died in the county. 
 
Jenny Niklaus heads EHC Lifebuilders, the agency that started the memorial. She acknowledged the number is a significant drop from 61 deaths last year.
 
“Even though I’m heartened by this decrease, any life loss is too many,” she said at the memorial.  “And we must continue to do the work we’re doing so that this number continues to go down and we have fewer candles here each year.”
 
Nicklaus and others credit the drop in deaths to the massive efforts in San Jose and Santa Clara County to getting chronically homeless people into permanent housing.
 
“We know that Housing First is the model that will work because people are usually homeless for a variety of reasons,” San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said.  “And it’s very difficult for them to solve the problems in their life if they don’t have a place to live.”
 
Reed said the Housing First model not only saves lives, but also saves money.  Numerous studies have shown that people living on the streets consume more government services than those who are placed in stable housing.
 
“The longer people are on the streets, the more likely they are to die there,” Niklaus said.
 
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