Feb 5, 2013

FromSalt Lake Tribune

In Poor Health and Homeless: Survey Finds Salt Lake City’s Most Vulnerable

“100,000 Homes” » National effort aims to identify the needy, put them in homes

By Cathy Mckitrick

For added protection from the elements, Eustace Yazzie lined his worn-thin leather boots with plastic bags.

"Once it gets wet under your feet, they get raw," Yazzie said of the pounding his feet took trudging around Salt Lake City.

For the most part, Yazzie has lived on the streets since 1998. But on Friday, he wore a wide grin as he moved into his first apartment, the result of collaborative efforts between government agencies and area nonprofits.

Yazzie’s poor health — aggravated by the harsh realities of homelessness and constant food insecurity — qualified him as "medically vulnerable" during a survey conducted late last week in Salt Lake City and throughout the country. The "100,000 Homes" survey aims to find and move 100,000 such fragile homeless Americans into housing by July 2014.

On Tuesday, advocates reported that Salt Lake City’s survey was conducted with 105 people living on the streets and 573 in shelters. Their average age was 47, with the eldest being 76 years old. Of the total, 80 were military veterans.

Those considered medically vulnerable totaled 42 percent, or 285 people. Eighteen percent, or 122 people, suffered from mental and physical illnesses in combination with substance abuse. Close to one-third, or 207 individuals, said they’d been victims of violent attacks after becoming homeless, and one-fourth of respondents reported suffering a brain injury.

The data showed 684 of those surveyed reported emergency room visits in the past three months, which over a year’s time would equate to 2,736 visits. At an average cost of $1,000 per visit, the annual costs add up to more than $2.7 million.

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