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Regional News

Memorial Event Held To Mark Homeless Deaths In Spokane

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Community Health Association of Spokane
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An event to mark National Homeless Persons Memorial Day was held in Spokane Friday.

The names of 76 people who died in Spokane this year who had no place to call their own were read out loud at an event downtown. Participants came forward and placed a bell with that person’s name on a small Christmas tree.

The audience heard how the homeless, on average, can expect to live 30 fewer years than those who have permanent housing.

Dr. Deborah Wiser is the chief medical officer for the Community Health Association of Spokane, or CHAS, which operates numerous clinics that serve low income people. Wiser says the diseases that are currently the biggest threat to that population include influenza, hepatitis A, and pertussis. She says immunizations for all those diseases are available for the underprivileged population at the CHAS clinics, for free.

She says the health needs of those on the streets are much different than the general population.

‘These are individuals who have their struggles, and we all know those in our lives who aren’t homeless who have very similar struggles, but they have the resources to get the help they need. So the difference is, in those people who have true poverty, who have the same struggles, they are the ones that suffer the consequences of homelessness and not being able to get the help that they need,” Wiser said.

She said the CHAS clinics have been providing care to a large number of those folks.

“14,500 patients seen at CHAS in the last year were defined as having some amount of homelessness, and that is defined by doubling up, which means maybe staying on someone’s couch or maybe with a friend, but also defined as maybe sleeping on the streets or in shelters,” she said.