Letter from Our CEO: Remember, Reflect, Rights | December 2018
December 21st is the winter solstice—the longest night of the year. It is also Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, and in many cities in the U.S. and around the world, people will stop to do what most people in their societies often don’t do—remember the men, women, and children who have died while experiencing homelessness or because of homelessness. Along with remembering on this day, they will hopefully reflect on the unnecessary tragedy of someone dying because of the lack of a home and health care. This is significant because many in our society are unaware of the link between homelessness and poor health and premature mortality.
When I’ve spoken to many different groups around the country, I’ve found that our biggest problem may not be apathy, but ignorance. When people hear about the real-life experiences of people who have experienced homelessness and how the lack of health care and housing limited their chance for health, recovery, employment, safety, and opportunity, many of them are moved and want to help.
Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day brings into sharp focus the direct effect of homelessness—it limits one’s ability to simply live.
For every age group, the death rate is two-to-four-times higher among people experiencing homelessness than the general population. The average age of those who die on the streets, in their automobiles, and in rural encampments is about 30 years less than their housed neighbors. That’s three decades of lost life, opportunity, and potential!
This month, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights which recognizes that Housing and Health Care are Human Rights. Caring for the poor and marginalized means to help them secure and enjoy those rights. Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day urgently calls us to redouble our resolve to avoid future premature loss of life and potential by securing housing and health care as a right for all people in our land.
It is not only a matter of justice. It is also a matter of life and death.
Chief Executive Officer
National Health Care for the Homeless Council