For Immediate Release
December 21, 2019
Vice President of Communications and Public Policy
Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
Undercount in 2019 Homeless Deaths Due to Change in Reporting Policy
Denver, CO--Each year, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) hosts a candlelight vigil and name-reading ceremony to pay tribute to people experiencing homelessness who lived and died on the streets of metropolitan Denver called the We Will Remember: 30th Annual Homeless Persons' Memorial Vigil (Vigil).
According to the data available through a process involving Metro Denver Homeless Initiative (MDHI) which is comprised of thirteen local organizations dedicated to serving those in our community experiencing homelessness, at least 172 people experiencing homelessness passed away in metropolitan Denver, Colorado, in 2019. This is the first year that this number could not be cross-referenced with the Denver Medical Examiner's Office (OME) data due to a change in the OME's policies which CCH is certain undercounts the number of people experiencing homelessness who passed away in 2019. CCH was also unable to collect names of the deceased from the OME to add to the Vigil program, again challenging the ability to give an accurate count in 2019 and honor those who have died while experiencing homelessness. The names read at the Vigil were collected for the unofficial total only from MDHI partners from January 1, 2019 through December 13, 2019. No demographic or medical information was available for these individuals.
Collecting demographic information and the names of those experiencing homelessness who have passed is key to understanding how people lived and died in our community and in obtaining additional resources for targeted populations, but this year’s report and its accompanying Vigil program do not include full data, details, and names of all individuals who passed away while experiencing homelessness.
This year's Vigil was opened by Britta Fisher, Chief Housing Officer of the Denver Department of Housing Stability and Jacob Wessley, Director of Outreach and Engagement of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, followed by name reading from Lindi Sinton, Vice President of Program Operations of Volunteers of America; Brad Meuli, President/CEO of Denver Rescue Mission; Christina Carlson, CEO of Urban Peak; Randle Loeb, Board Member of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless; and Tom Luehrs, Executive Director of St. Francis Center.
In conjunction with the memorial service, the Coalition published the 2019 Homeless Persons' Death Review, a report that relies on mortality information provided by the Medical Examiner’s office 120 individuals who died on the streets of Denver between November 1, 2018 and November 30, 2019. No demographic data was included in this report.
The report highlights the vital role of housing in preventing early deaths of unhoused populations, especially in relation to methamphetamine overdose, and hypothermia and other weather related deaths. Additionally, the report outlines the tragic loss of these individuals as it compares to the housed population, strides in policy change for people who are unhoused, and challenges for the future. Click here to 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 people experiencing and at-risk of homelessness homeless 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 more than 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 20,000 individuals and families each year. Learn more at www.coloradocoalition.org.