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Vigil honors 117 people who died homeless in Utah in 2021

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This is more than double the number reported in 2020.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A vigil for the 117 people who died in Salt Lake City while experiencing homelessness last year, on Tuesday, December 21, 2021.

With gloves, beanies and scarves, more than 200 people gathered at Pioneer Park on Tuesday to honor the lives of 117 homeless or formerly homeless people who died in Utah in 2021. .

During a candlelit vigil on the longest night of the year, some onlookers held candles to their fingers for warmth as they listened to housing advocates and service providers say the names of people died in the past year.

“We understand it’s cold, but this is what our homeless friends experience every year,” said Pamela Atkinson, a community campaigner for the homeless.

The annual vigil – hosted by a number of homeless service providers, including The Other Side Academy, 4th Street Clinic and INN Middle – returned to Pioneer Park after it was announced moving to a virtual format in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A vigil for the 117 people who died in Salt Lake City while experiencing homelessness last year, on Tuesday, December 21, 2021.

Atkinson praised the efforts of advocates and government officials to address homelessness in Utah, including building The Magnolia, a 65-unit housing project for longtime homeless people in downtown Salt Lake City.

Governor Deidre Henderson read a statement signed by Governor Spencer Cox, noting the symbolism of the winter solstice and designating December 21, 2021 as Homeless Remembrance Day. “We’re not just trying to help individuals, but we’ve built our systems to help take care of people when they’re in crisis, but before they reach that crisis point,” she said.

Henderson said the state now provides more accessible mental health services, better healthcare, housing and better job training to the homeless.

“The homeless crisis in Utah is not just a housing issue. … It’s about culture, community and care and love,” added Henderson.

Fred Rivers, a member of the 4th Street Clinic’s Consumer Advisory board, shared stories of when he lived in a broken shopping cart on the street. Rivers moved to Utah from the East Coast during the 2002 Winter Olympics, but found himself without money after the games ended.

He recalls a man who gave him a coffee and a burrito on a cold winter morning after he lost everything. “He said, ‘Hey man, I want to give this to you.’ You have no idea how much that simple act of kindness means to me,” Rivers said.

He encouraged the crowd to be considerate of those around them and reminded attendees that “homelessness does not discriminate.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Fred Rivers is comforted by Tori Dixon during a vigil for the 117 people who died in Salt Lake City while experiencing homelessness over the last year, on Tuesday, Dec. 2021.

Attendees watched in silence for a while and listened to songs performed by the Other Side Academy Choir.

The median age of the 117 dead was 53 years old – roughly the same as the US median life expectancy of 51 for people living in the homeless, much lower than the average age of 78 years for the general population. . The youngest is 19 and the oldest is 80. Nine are veterans, according to 4th Street Clinic. Thirty are women.

The death toll in 2021 is more than double 53 deaths in 2020 – though that total may have been underestimated because of the pandemic. Had 94 people died in 2019, 121 in 2018, 117 in 2017, and 97 in 2016.

Agencies including Volunteers of America-Utah, The Road Home, Catholic Community Services, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Salt Lake County Housing Authority report deaths to the Four Street Clinic, where make an informal list each year.

Atkinson said about 12% of those who died this year had a place to call home as they passed.

James Jarrard, a spokesman for the 4th Street Clinic, said the causes of death for nearly all of the 117 people who died in the past year but were not reported this year. Three people were hit by a car.

There is a shortage of personnel delay the opening of the wintering space to keep people out of the cold streets.

The Road Home, one of the county’s primary homeless service providers, needed to hire about 30 new employees to staff a temporary 250-bed shelter on North Temple Street. America Utah volunteers had a hard time recruiting six more employees to run a smaller spill site in the downtown area.

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2021/12/22/vigil-honors-people-who/ Vigil honors 117 people who died homeless in Utah in 2021

Yasmin Harisha

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