FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 22, 2017
Vice President of Communications and Public Policy
Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
Homeless Persons’ Memorial Vigil Remembers Over 231 Individuals Who Died in 2017
Denver, CO – Every year for 28 years, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (Coalition) hosts 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 people currently and formerly experiencing homelessness through a coordinated process involving the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner and homeless service organizations in the seven-county Denver metropolitan area (this year, thirteen organizations provided names). 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, 231 individuals were remembered, an increase of sixty individuals from last year’s vigil.
John Parvensky, President of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, set the tone for the evening in his opening remarks by quoting humanitarian and activist Mother Jones, asking those who gathered to "pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living." Tom Luehrs, Executive Director of the St. Francis Center; Lisa Raville, Executive Director of the Harm Reduction Action Center; Ray Lyall, Activist of Denver Homeless Out Loud; Randall Loeb, Board Member of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless; and Terrell Curtis, Executive Director of The Delores Project then followed by reading the 231 names of those experiencing homelessness who died in 2017, each followed by “we will remember” recited by attendees. Six additional names were shared from the audience.
Special thanks to Denver's Road Home and the City and County of Denver for allowing the event to be hosted on the steps of the Denver City and County Building.
In conjunction with the memorial service, the Coalition published the We Will Remember 2017: Homeless Death Review, a report that relies on demographic and mortality information provided by the Medical Examiner’s office on 92 individuals who died on the streets of Denver in 2017.
The report highlights the leading cause of death for those 92 individuals as opioid overdose. While the opioid epidemic is impacting every community in our country, it disproportionately impacts people with housing insecurity. People experiencing homelessness ages 25 to 44 are nine times more likely to die from an opioid overdose than their housed counterparts. To learn more about the challenges faced by people experiencing homelessness in our state and recommendations to help prevent such tragedies in the future, read the full report.
About Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
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. Since its founding over 30 years ago, the organization has earned state and national recognition for its integrated healthcare, housing and service programs. The Coalition’s comprehensive approach addresses the causes of homelessness, as well as the consequences, offering critical assistance to over 18,000 individuals and families each year. Learn more at www.coloradocoalition.org.