Home / World News / Homeless deaths in Denver in 2017 at record quantity, advocacy group says at vigil.

Homeless deaths in Denver in 2017 at record quantity, advocacy group says at vigil.

More than 232 homeless people died in Denver in 2017, the most since numbers have been tracked by advocates and at least 60 more than the number of deaths last year.

On the first day of winter and the longest night of the year, more than 200 people gathered in the freezing cold and the dark to attend “We Will Remember,” a memorial to the homeless who died in Denver.

“For many (of the dead), this will be the only memorial they’ll have,” said John Parvensky, president of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, at the service on the steps of the Denver City and County Building.

The alarming spike in deaths is attributed, in large part, to the opioid epidemic, Parvensky said. Thirty-two percent of those on the 2017 list died of drug overdoses, with 81 percent of those deaths related to opioids.

The homeless, drug dependency and mental health issues, whether cause or effect, can go hand in hand for many people, Parvensky said.

“We have got to break that cycle,” he told the crowd.

With the prospect of tax breaks leading to federal budget cuts of social programs under the Trump administration, Parvensky and other homeless advocates fear the number of deaths will climb higher.

Parvensky, in urging the crowd to remain involved and supportive of the homeless, cited the humanitarian Mother Jones: “Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.”

All 232 names were read aloud at the candlelight vigil. After each name the crowd responded: “We will remember.” After the last name was read, audience members were invited to call out a name of someone they knew who was missed on the list. About half a dozen names were called out. “We will remember,” followed each additional name.

Benjamin Dunning, 54, a founding member of Denver Homeless Out Loud, an advocacy group, was homeless from 2008 to 2012, he said. With the help of local community support, Dunning now has a home.

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