Homeless Memorial Day
The date is chosen as the First Day of Winter – The longest Night of the Year
(Find the poster here)
For the homeless, any night can be a nightmare. Danger aside, Winter is the worst season, any night with rain, sleet or snow is just plain miserable. Unsheltered homeless die far too often in such conditions. Our homeless heroes, our veterans die in the cold, sleet and snow too.
According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, homelessness dramatically increases the risk of illness, injury or death.
Compared to the general population, the homeless :
Are 3 times more likely to die at any given age
Middle aged men and young women are most at risk
Have a life span 28 years less than national average
Have 6 times the incidence of serious illnesses
Die from illnesses that are easily treated or prevented
Who live in shelters have high risk of communicable diseases
Have a high incidence of death from heart problems or cancer
Risk death on the streets from cold
Have 8 times the risk of dieing from Frostbite
Too often die on the streets from unprovoked hate crimes
Lack access to quality health care.
Here is a list of 2222 homeless people and their locations by city that are known deaths in 2006. There were an estimated 17,500 homeless deaths in the United States last year, meaning that more than 15,000 homeless died virtually unnoticed or at least unidentified in 2006. (I base that knowing that there are about 735,000 homeless in this country and the homeless die at 3x the rate of 800 deaths per 100,000 of the general population.)
Keep in mind that about 4,600 of those deaths are homeless veterans. I base that on the knowledge that there are an estimated 195,000 homeless veterans and use the same rates as above.
There is no way to know how close that number is, but whatever it is, it is shameful that our homeless are so very vulnerable to death through the neglect of our system of care. It is a disgrace to this country that almost 5000 of our heroes die in in the streets and alleys of our country each year.
So when Homeless Memorial Day comes around, you can also remember the 4600 homeless heroes that did not die on the battlefield of war, but lived to die in the alleys, streets and woods of the country they served, uncared for, helpless and unwanted. My fault as much as anyone for not speaking up as loudly as I should. Can’t we all do more?