Letter from Our CEO: Premature, Preventable Outrageous Tragedies | December 2017

Bobby Watts

Bobby Watts, CEO of the National HCH Council

Dear Friends,

Almost every ethical and religious system recognizes that human life is precious and each person has intrinsic worth regardless of their life circumstances. On Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day we remember those who have passed away while experiencing homelessness or due to previous homelessness because we reaffirm that each person without a home has inherent worth and deserves to be remembered and honored. We consciously remember them specifically because we know that many in our society have not respected their human dignity and rights.

While the prospect of death is something that each of us shares in common with every other member of humanity, how and at what point death comes is not. Many of those whom we will remember on Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day sadly died on the streets, in shelters, or in hospitals without a home of their own. Furthermore, most of them died prematurely—the average age of death of those who died while living on the streets is about 50 years old while the average lifespan in the U.S. is about 80 years.  The average 30 years of lost life is a personal and national tragedy—especially because the majority of these deaths were not only premature, but preventable. Lack of housing and health care doomed people without homes to an early grave.

As a nation, the federal government only makes funding available for one-fourth of people and families that qualify for housing subsidies. I find it outrageous that we turn away three-quarters of those who should get subsidies for life-saving housing, but through mortgage interest tax deductions, we subsidize our wealthier neighbors so they can buy bigger homes, and even second homes. If you share my outrage, I hope you will join me in channeling it into action. One of the best ways to honor the memory of those who have passed away while experiencing homelessness is to help make sure that their fate is shared by fewer people in the future. Advocate for and be part of developing housing and services in your community, while urging your federal representative to prioritize creating affordable housing so we can make each premature, preventable, outrageous tragedy a rarity.

Thank you for remembering and fighting to eliminate homelessness.

In Solidarity,

Bobby Watts

Chief Executive Officer
National Health Care for the Homeless Council
(615) 226-2292