We must prevent more deaths among the homeless

November 10, 2009

Saturday's article "Place a homeless man called home" (Nov. 7) highlights one community's remembrance of its neighbor, Andre Haney. Unfortunately, premature death among individuals experiencing homelessness is all too common, at a rate three to four times higher than those with stable housing. Even in a kindly neighborhood such as 26th Street, homelessness is hazardous to one's health.

According to a study released by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, the average age of death for homeless individuals is 47 - strikingly, the age of Mr. Haney upon his untimely passing. Chronic and acute illnesses, violence and exposure to the elements all take a toll. Over the past five years, at least 280 people known by service providers to have experienced homelessness died in Baltimore City alone.

On Dec. 21 - the first day of winter and longest night of the year - service providers will honor Mr. Haney and others during a local commemoration of National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day at 5 p.m. at Baltimore's Inner Harbor Amphitheatre. We will join communities across the country in remembering our homeless neighbors while at the same time redoubling our work to end homelessness. Investments in housing, health care, incomes and support services are the proven combination to get people off the street and back on their feet. This holiday season, let's give dignity and honor to those who have passed by preventing future unnecessary deaths.Barbara DiPietro and Adam Schneider, Baltimore

The writers are director of policy and community relations coordinator for Health Care for the Homeless.


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