Fire in the Belly - Remembering Those Who Died On the Streets
My heart ached when I read this headline last week - In The Wealthiest Area Of The Country, 7 Homeless People Have Frozen To Death This Winter. We have a crisis in this country and it's not limited to the Bay Area or the winter months. In King County, Washington more than 50 people lost their lives while experiencing homelessness in 2013. In West Haven, CT my mom died. She was homeless. All across the country our homeless neighbors are struggling for survival. Far too many die without a permanent address - without hope - without the comfort of home.
The mortality rate for those experiencing chronic homelessness is four to nine times higher than for the general population.People who are homeless often die from exposure to the elements, from violence, or from poor mental and physical health. Being homeless is incredibly stressful, frightening, and isolating. The holidays can be particularly difficult. In addition to trying to stay warm and dry, find a place to rest your head, and access resources that could help you move out of homelessness, people who are homeless try to maintain connection to their family, memories, and "normal" life.
Last week I went through a box of my moms belongings that I picked up from a local shelter. Among pictures, doctors notes, and bills, I found a carefully written list of Christmas gifts. While she struggled with the impacts of alcoholism, homelessness, and poverty she also wanted to do what every parent and wife does - give to her family.
Housing status doesn't change one's title of mom,sister, lover, or friend.
Housing status doesn't change the need to give and receive, to love and be loved.
Housing status doesn't change ones need to be remembered.
On December 21st - the longest night of the year - we honor people who have died on the streets as part of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. I plan to join my Seattle neighbors to honor those we've lost this year. I'm glad that people across the country will remember those who could easily be forgotten. But one night is not enough.
I incredibly grateful that in my hometown of West Haven, a tree has been planted to honor my mom each and every day of the year. A big thank you to the Wachter family and former Mayor John Picard for making that happen.
Fire in the Belly
This week activist Mark Horvath wrote that Homeless Persons' Memorial Day is a day that should exist. He's right. We have to do more for to end homelessness in this country. We know what works. We have the plans and we're making strides.
But it's not enough.
Homelessness is solvable but it takes public and political will. We need more people to be outraged by the issue and inspired to act. We need to stop blaming the poor and mentality ill and to start mobilizing the resources necessary to provide a roof over the head of every man, woman and child in America.