Spike in Number of Homeless People Who Died in Boulder in 2019

Saturday marked this year’s Winter Solstice and also served as a “Day of Remembrance” for those who died in Boulder during 2019 while homeless, or after experiencing many years of homelessness. KGNU’s Roz Brown has more about the annual ceremony held on the longest night of the year.

There were 48 names affixed to the back wall of Boulder’s downtown central park. Bandshell on Saturday, a Memorial to those local residents who died while experiencing homelessness in 2019 some were still on the streets, others had secured housing but died often prematurely due to the extreme toll being homeless takes on a person’s health as traffic buzzed on Canyon Boulevard each name was read aloud.

In past years there have been about 20 deaths reported among the homeless community. Again this year it was 48 longtime Boulder homeless advocate. Darren O’Connor, was at a loss as to why the number jumps so dramatic.

“I have no explanation for them, but we know that people don’t have access to shelter every night of the winter. We know that the winters are hard here and our policy is still cruel, but sadly they’re not unusual in the Denver Metro area. We punish people for being poor and we make them hide. Again, I don’t know why any of these these folks passed away this year. There’s a multitude of reasons, but when the numbers double, we have to start asking why.”

Bill Sweeney is a volunteer at the Bridge House, an organization that provides services and programs for the homeless. Sweeney was also alarmed that the number of deaths is headed in the wrong direction.

“We didn’t even know what the total was until a few days ago and we haven’t had time to understand what we’ve found yet. Boom times and bust times are the two times that lead most likely to homelessness and we’re in a boom time now and people are priced out of their housing, their whatever they have chosen to do for a life doesn’t work. They need to reset. That’s a hard thing.”