Tag Archives: Homeless deaths

In Memoriam: National program lays to rest 1,000th homeless veteran

Civil Air Patrol member Nick Henry receives the flag from the coffin of Stevenson L. Roy, who passed away Dec. 16 in Portland. Roy was a homeless Vietnam veteran. No family could be located, but he was buried Jan. 25 by Dignity Memorial members in Willamette National Cemetery with full military honors. (Photo by Ken Hawkins)

By Joanne Zuhl, Staff writer

Stevenson L. Roy was not the first, and sadly, he will not be the last. But on Jan. 25, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Roy became a milestone. He was the 1,000th veteran laid to rest through a national program to fund indigent or homeless soldiers burials.

He died Dec. 16 in Portland and was buried with full military honors in Willamette National Cemetery. Taps was played, a 21-gun salute was delivered, and the flag was folded with precision.

There are more than 1,300 homeless veterans across Oregon, a disproportionate percentage to the population as a whole. In Multnomah County, veterans comprise 12 percent of the homeless population, according to 2011 count, but only 9 percent of the general population.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders, with the motto, “Standing for those who stood for us.” (Photo by Ken Hawkins)

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Working to change the debate

Staff writer, by Israel Bayer

Street Roots is actively working with a roundtable of folks to begin tracking the number of individuals who pass away on the streets. Sound simple? Not so fast. It’s one thing to collect data about people who pass away — it’s another to develop a strategy to deliver annual reports and findings from the medical examiner’s office to build a case regionally on how to leverage funding and targeted services for people experiencing homelessness. But that’s what we are setting out to do.

Street Roots has been working on this issue for the past two and a half years — from both a journalism and advocacy angle. One of the things that is unique about Street Roots is our ability to use our journalism to create change. We do not publish advocacy journalism; instead, we report the facts and specifics around a particular issue. We then use our editorials, vendor program and advocacy efforts to move a targeted issue forward. In this case, it’s counting individuals who have died on the streets.

What’s at stake? First is the dignity of the individuals who passed away and being able to recognize someone as a human being instead of a throwaway. Second is possibly millions of dollars from any number of groups, including state and federal government, health foundations, hospitals, and others who need real data to help make the case for homelessness being a health issue instead of one of public safety, as it is today. While counting people on the streets who die and being able to understand why they are dying is only one slice of the larger formula to create real change, it’s an important one.

Currently, Street Roots is working with stakeholders, including County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, the health department, the medical examiner and district attorney’s office, service providers, the city of Portland, people experiencing homelessness and others to help bring this campaign home. Our goal is to have something in place by January 2011. But there’s a lot to do between now and then, including making sure all the bureaucracies are informed and aligned and bringing on new partners for the research component.

We are cautiously optimistic that we can find a way, that we will be able to make the region a better place, and create real systematic change. Something that is at the heart of Street Roots is all about.

Having the ability to understand how many individuals are dying on the streets, and why, is something our community has been advocating in one form or another for at least two decades. With a little bit a luck, some political will, and the right partners, this time next year SR and other newspapers in the region, universities and foundations, government institutions and the general public will hopefully have an important tool to use when building a movement to end poverty on Portland’s streets.

Remembering our friends who have passed

Also read “The streets claim lives every year. Why aren’t we paying better attention?”

The streets claim lives every year, so why aren’t we paying better attention?

By Amanda Waldroupe, staff Writer

“Frankly, they shock me.”

Those were the words City Commissioner Nick Fish used to describe the results of the Vulnerability Index survey when it was given to 646 homeless individuals over the course of three mornings in October 2008.

The survey revealed that 302 people, nearly half of all surveyed, were considered “medically vulnerable” because they had diseases increasing their likelihood of dying while homeless, such as heart disease, end-stage renal disease, and cancer. More than a third of those surveyed, 231 individuals, were considered “tri-morbid,” because they had co-occurring physical and mental illnesses as well as a substance abuse issues.

“We had a good sense that people who were homeless and living on the streets were more likely to be more ill. The proportion was higher than we had expected,” says Ryan Deibert, a homeless program coordinator at the Portland Housing Bureau.

Fish vowed change. Continue reading