Homeless Persons' Memorial Vigil Remembers Over 170 Individuals
Every year, for 27 years, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (Coalition) has hosted a candlelight vigil and name-reading ceremony to pay tribute to our homeless neighbors who lived and died on the streets of Metro Denver.
The Coalition conducts an unofficial count of homeless and formerly homeless decedents through a coordinated process involving the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner and over 25 homeless service organizations in the seven-county Denver metropolitan area. All the names collected over the course of the year are read aloud and acknowledged during the Homeless Persons’ Memorial Vigil—the only memorial service for most of these individuals. This year, 171 individuals were remembered.
The event was led by Tom Luehrs, St. Francis Center Executive Director, who read a proclamation from Governor Hickenlooper declaring December 21, 2016 as Homeless Persons' Memorial Day. Additional community members participating in the reading of names included Coalition Board Member Randle Loeb, Coalition Outreach Worker Elisabeth Teater, and The Delores Project Executive Director Terrell Curtis.
In conjunction with the memorial service, the Coalition published the 2016 We Will Remember Homeless Death Review, a report that relies on demographic and mortality information provided by the Medical Examiner’s office about 79 individuals who died on the streets of Denver in 2016.
The report highlights that the average life expectancy of homeless individuals is disproportionately lower than the general population by 30 years, and the data shows that more than 80 percent of individuals in Metro Denver were 60 years old or younger at the time of their death. The findings also show that over 40 percent of individual deaths were due to accident, the leading cause of death was drug or alcohol related, and the seasonal distribution of deaths was fairly equal throughout the year. To learn more about the challenges faced by homeless individuals and recommended solutions to help prevent such tragedies in the future, read the full report.
The mission of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is to work collaboratively toward the prevention of homelessness and the creation of lasting solutions for homeless and at-risk families, children, and individuals throughout Colorado. The Coalition advocates for and provides a continuum of housing and a variety of services to improve the health, well-being and stability of those it serves.