Homelessness Kills and It Is on the Rise

ambulance with emergency lights

We are at the pinnacle of modern technological advancement and global wealth. With immense success and wealth comes something unexpected: a gaping wealth gap large enough to dwarf a small country.

The United States indeed takes the top spot for wealth inequality, a fact that is evident not only in our country’s abundance but also in its abjection. There exists not a middle class but a surviving class hovering just slightly above the poverty line. One false move can give way to the sudden and desolate state of homelessness, which, of itself, can be deadly.

The Sad Truth About Homelessness, Illness and Life Expectancy

According to World Population Review, the average American male can expect to live approximately 76.1 years, while the average American female lives slightly longer, about 81.1 years. However, if you happen to be homeless, you can expect that number to be drastically cut short by more than three decades. Sources state that the average homeless person’s life expectancy is just 47 years, which most housed people would consider middle age.

Even if a person or family manages to somehow escape homelessness and obtain permanent housing, many of the adverse effects remain. Homeless people are at an elevated risk for all of the following health issues:

  • Late diagnosis of terminal illness such as cancer or diabetes
  • Respiratory illness
  • Flu
  • Infectious disease
  • Wounds
  • Mental health issues like PTSD, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem
  • Malnutrition
  • Hepatitis
  • COVID-19 and more

To quote the National Health Care for the Homeless Council directly:

“Homelessness creates new health problems and exacerbates existing ones.”

The Prospect of Increasing Violence Against Homeless People

In addition to illness and exposure to toxins and inclement weather conditions, violence against homeless people has seriously increased in recent years. The Washington Post describes a perilous underworld of murder, beatings, and beheadings. ABC7 reports a marked increase of 24% for violence incited against homeless community members. And as data from 2021 emerges, Sacramento County acknowledges that homeless deaths in this region of the US have hit record highs, exhibiting a morbid and unsettling trend.

Sacramento County Creates Memorial in Honor of the Record 195 Lives Lost to Homelessness

It’s important to remember that this number reflects the lives and subsequent deaths of men, women, and children who died as the result of homelessness, a preventable condition people in power have chosen to bestow upon us. Please refer to the Sacramento Bee for an elongated list of names, ages, and causes of death, as well as insight into who these fallen heroes were in stories told by the people who knew them.

Several victims were newborn infants born to homeless mothers who never even got the chance to live.

Among the deaths by homicide is a little seven-year-old girl who was murdered in a public housing complex one week shy of her eighth birthday.

Deaths by homicide and hypothermia were shockingly high. And there was no shortage of stories of kindness and compassion from victims who never made it out alive.

Many victims were mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and siblings. Harrowing stories of bodies found on riverbanks, broken-down vehicles, and gas stations abound. Ages, backgrounds, and preferences vary greatly.

But each life lost had one thing in common: the need for a safe and stable home.

Some of these stories are nail-bitingly frustrating because of how close the person was to being saved.

For example, a 58-year-old woman named Louise Norrell died in an ambulance on her way to the hospital.

A 45-year-old man named Keyon Jamal Scott died just a few days after finally being approved for housing.

And a 57-year-old man named Mike Trimble died shortly after law enforcement officials swept his encampment.

It is times like these when we see the differences we could be making when we choose to look the other way. Stats like these show the ineffectiveness of the latest political wave seeking to criminalize rather than hospitalize, to arrest rather than remedy the problem.

While heartfelt memorials are a step in the right direction, the goal should be to make the need for them obsolete. We can only do that by ending homelessness through non-punitive approaches and policies.

Rid the Nation of the Need to Erect Such Memorials by Contacting Your Legislators Today

As you reflect on these precious lives lost, it’s important to remember that homelessness was the real cause of death. Everything else was a byproduct of that desolate state of existence.

Homelessness claims lives and causes communal calamities, having a domino effect on all it touches. It isn’t just homeless deaths increasing in the wake of these disasters. Homelessness itself is on the rise.

Contact your representatives today and ask where they stand on this unprecedented homelessness crisis in 2022 America.


Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith

     

Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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