DENVER — A Colorado Coalition for Homeless report on homelessness is gaining national attention for its findings on the impact of homeless encampment sweeps in regards to life expectancy.
The Denverite reported that the Coalition’s “We Will Remember” annual report was cited in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
JAMA specifically looked at the coalition's 2019 findings.
“We know that people experiencing homelessness have a life expectancy that's 20 years less than housed individuals,” said Cathy Alderman, chief communications and public policy officer for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
The coalition's 2022 report found most deaths of people experiencing homelessness in Denver last year were from drug overdoses, with links to fentanyl.
From 2021 to 2022, the average age at death for a someone experiencing homelessness in Denver jumped from 47.5 years old to over 50 years old.
“That's alarming because we know that represents a statistic that more people that are aging are starting to fall into the cycle of homelessness,” Alderman said.
For people of all ages living on Denver’s streets, Alderman said encampment sweeps intensify the issue.
“The reason they're disruptive is because sometimes, somebody may be camping somewhere and they have a relationship with a case manager and that case manager is just waiting for their housing application to go through. And they may get that news, and if somebody is no longer where they used to be, they can't deliver that news. And that person may suddenly become ineligible for housing,” Alderman said. “Sweeps also disconnect people from their survival needs. So they may have medications that get thrown away.”
Alderman said solutions to the problem remain the same.
“I’ve said it multiple times a day. You know, the solution to homelessness is housing, and we've got to invest in more housing," she said. "We've got to invest in more housing with supportive services."
According to Alderman, housing literally determines whether or not someone may live for another five to 10 years.