People experiencing homelessness live an average of 20 years less than their peers. They are at much higher risk of chronic Illnesses, like hypertension, diabetes, pulmonary disease, cancer, tuberculosis, influenza, and other respiratory infections. With the onset of the pandemic, University of Pennsylvania researchers have found that people experiencing homelessness are "twice as likely to be hospitalized, two to four times as likely to require critical care, and two to three times as likely to die" from COVID-19. The National Healthcare for the Homeless Council describes how many of these illnesses—and resulting deaths—can be "treated or prevented."
In 2019, BEDS held its first ever memorial service for clients who had passed away the year before. BEDS Chaplain Pastor Leland Albright described how, "we wanted to celebrate our clients and what we knew of their lives."
"We didn't know the marks they left on this world, but we know that they were there and they were good and they were loved by God," he said.
Since then, we lost seven more people. We recently held a virtual memorial service for them. Their memories reaffirmed our commitment to helping vulnerable people return to homes, and we would also like to take a moment here to acknowledge:
Pastor Albright emphasizes how, "our society almost never commemorates the homeless," which is not only true about their deaths, but also the reasons they die. We can pay tribute to those we have lost by acknowledging homelessness' toll on people's bodies and minds. It's difficult to confront, but it's the reality our clients, staff, volunteers, and parents face every day.
The National League of Cities and many others have observed, "housing is health," but even more directly, housing is life. Our work guarantees longer, fuller lives.