Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Homeless deaths: the impact on friends, siblings, parents

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 4:53 PM

click to enlarge The bus stop where Calvin Reeves was found dead on Jan. 22. - BRYAN OLLER
  • Bryan Oller
  • The bus stop where Calvin Reeves was found dead on Jan. 22.
As the Independent was going to press this week, we heard from Shawna Kemppainen, executive director of Urban Peak, which serves homeless youth.

She had something to add after our interview about the death of Calvin Reeves at a bus stop at Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard.

Her thoughts:
As with each of us, the death of a person who has been homeless affects many others. This person had friends, siblings, parents or children. A young person we work with at Urban Peak discovered their mother dead one morning last year. The mom was living in her car parked not far from our youth shelter, and the young person would go to the car each morning to say hello. As you might imagine, it has taken a deep toll on the youth who is processing all aspects of grief, including guilt. In another instance, a young person surviving outside was hit and killed by a drunk driver. Too old for Urban Peak’s shelter but too afraid to stay at the adult shelters, this youth traveled sidewalks and streets most of the day and night. The day before they died, our street outreach team had helped the youth arrange to get their hearing aids fixed.

Second: People surviving outside face the same illnesses as people who have a traditional roof overhead, but the rates of sickness are much higher and the threat of death greater. Imagine facing the flu or even heart disease when you cannot get enough rest, stay warm and clean, or maintain medications. The conditions of homelessness exacerbate all health challenges. Even when someone exits homelessness, the toll of street life can quickly catch up.

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