H-SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY

Dec 22, 2011 12:00 AM by Nancy Chen

San Luis Obispo County marks National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day

Communities everywhere marked National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day Wednesday.

At least 1,900 people died homeless last year in the United States, including five known people in San Luis Obispo County.

About 3,800 people in the county were without homes, as of last January; about 630 of those are children. About 17 percent of homeless people suffer from undiagnosed or untreated medical conditions.

In San Luis Obispo, a memorial was held in Mission Plaza to commemorate the day, serving to both remember those who have passed away as well as raise awareness.

The Board of Supervisors passed a proclamation, along with the county's seven incorporated cities, recognizing the day, one organized by the National Homeless Coalition.

And it's no coincidence the memorial is behind held the first day of winter.

"The winter solstice is often referred to as the shortest day of the year, but it's also the longest night of the year," said Jim Patterson, the Fifth District supervisor. "And a night when people living without shelter have the greatest exposure to the elements."

He said the causes of death for those without homes are wide-ranging, including unprotected exposure to heat and cold.

"There are people living without shelter," Patterson said. "And the first day of winter emphasizes the fact that there's greater exposure to these populations."

There is also violence, often from unprovoked hate crimes, and because they are frequently without health care, illness is more likely to be deadly.

According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, the average age of death of homeless persons is about fifty years old. For non-homeless Americans, it is about 78.

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