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Indybay Feature

Homeless deaths of the dispossessed and unhoused in 2022 are heartbreaking

by Lynda Carson (newzland2 [at] gmail.com)
Makeshift Tombstones Honoring Homeless Persons Who Died In 2022:
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Homeless deaths of the dispossessed and unhoused in 2022 are heartbreaking

By Lynda Carson - December 29, 2022

Recently, Congress passed an omnibus federal spending bill for FY 2023, including an $858 billion dollar defense/offense budget for the over bloated Pentagon and military, to wage war against the Russians, the Chinese, and any other countries being targeted by the Pentagon, Congressional leaders, or the president.

Meanwhile, reportedly on December 21, 2022, in Santa Clara County, around 70 residents held a memorial service with rows of makeshift tombstones in remembrance of 246 homeless persons who tragically died on the streets of Santa Clara County this past year.

The homeless deaths include 146 seniors, three babies, seven teenagers and young adults, with more than half of the deaths being people of color. It’s not a pretty sight. However, this is an on-going tragedy happening year, after year, locally and all across the nation, with thousands of people dying on the streets of the richest country in the world every year.

Compared to the news coverage of mass shootings happening all across this country on a daily basis, homeless deaths receive very little news coverage as thousands of homeless people die on the streets while being unhoused for one reason or another.

Just try to imagine trying to survive on the cold hearted streets of America while being broke, sick, cold, hungry, tired, frightened, dispossessed, unhoused, and being pushed around by a brutal system of cops, politicians and their henchmen, who are determined to remove the homeless from the streets one way, or another.

Reportedly, locally in Oakland, it’s been reported that the homeless population has surpassed 5,000 persons this year, in comparison to only 2,800 homeless persons in Oakland 5 years ago. And from 2018-2020, an astounding 809 unhoused persons died on the streets of Alameda County during that horrific period.

It’s a hard world for the homeless, dispossessed, and unhoused persons living on the streets of downtown Oakland, while they are covered in blankets trying to stay warm in the cold and the rain. Meanwhile, they are trying to figure out where their next meal is coming from, and where to crash for the evening in a safe place without freezing to death in the cold. Often they are being shunned by the public, and demonized by the politicians and cops who are brutalizing them on a daily basis, because they have nowhere to go due to a lack of shelters and housing.

Long Gone Are The Crash Pads From The 60s

Long gone are the “buck a night crash pads” from the 60s that proliferated throughout cities all across the nation, where people could hang out all day or night during the cold, and find some cheap food nearby after panhandling some spare change on the streets.

Back in those days it was easy to find a friendly Fire Department that may allow homeless persons to take a shower at to clean up their tender little bodies, and they may get a free sandwich to munch on in the process. Back in the 60s, I do not recall hearing about a lot of homeless deaths like we have now. Often back then, most of the homeless population on the streets seemed like they were a community of winos hanging out drinking their cheap Ripple wine or Bali Hai wine in the parks, and on the streets.

During the late 60s in the French Quarter of New Orleans, a few of the “buck a night crash pads” included the Head-Inn and the Youth Rescue League, for people passing through town, or for those who were homeless. There were no beds for the male and female customers who slept together in the same rooms. You just payed your buck for the night, signed in, and rolled out your sleeping bag to sleep somewhere on the floor, if you could find a space. You could watch TV or party with others all night long, or until you passed out, or were ready to go to sleep.

It was
Perry Russo who opened up the Youth Rescue League crash pad in New Orleans for people to sleep in at night in the late 60s.
During Mardi Gras, sometimes there were up to 70 persons or more who slept on the floor for only a “buck a night,” when I was homeless and worked there at the crash pad for Perry Russo, while the Jim Garrison Investigation was still going on investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It seemed like strange times back then when Perry Russo mentioned that he knew and hung out with Lee Harvey Oswald, David Ferrie, and Clay Shaw, shortly before the JFK assassination occurred. Years later, I was surprised that Perry Russo helped Oliver Stone with the film JFK, and I felt shocked to see Perry Russo in the JFK film all those year later after I knew him in New Orleans. What a world…

On the bright side, back then in New Orleans, people could get a cheap meal of red beans and rice, or rice and gravy including some french bread with butter, and all the water you can drink for only 30 cents a plate at Buster Holmes Bar and Restaurant in the French Quarter, while I resided there, and had a blast during Mardi Gras. I used to go to Buster Holmes restaurant with Perry Russo often, after I helped clean up the crash pad called the Youth Rescue League while working there, and loved the rice and gravy with french bead, and some water.

I spent a number of years being homeless during my youth in Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Boston, New Jersey, Memphis, Florida, Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston, Phoenix, San Francisco, Berkeley, San Diego, and places in between. I used to hitchhike my way around the country while I was homeless, and fortunately I did not get killed or die, because there used to be a lot of crazy stuff happening out there on the cold hearted streets of America.

I can still recall being homeless with the Yippies in Chicago selling The Seed newspaper in front of the Art Institute to make some money for the Yippies, and for some food. At night I would find a spot to crash in Grant Park, or at North Avenue Beach, or Lincoln Park, and I would bathe in a fountain at the Art Institute durnig the day time, as a way to help keep myself clean. Things got really wild in Chicago at times with the anti-war protests happening, and we had a lot of fun on Sundays in Lincoln Park with the free music, free food, and wine that people shared with one another. When a number of students were shot and killed at Kent State by the National Guard back in those days, in protest we took over Circle Campus College in Chicago, and camped out there for weeks while shutting down the campus. That was a lot of fun…

Some Homeless Deaths In 2022:

Among the astounding number of tragic homeless deaths recorded this past year, reportedly there were 574 homeless deaths in San Diego County, 45 homeless deaths in Kansas City, 159 homeless deaths in Utah, 24 homeless deaths in Anchorage, 150 homeless deaths in Sacramento, 93 homeless deaths in Sacramento County, more than 500 homeless deaths in Orange County, 158 homeless deaths in Ventura County, 91 homeless deaths in Santa Cruz, 36 homeless deaths in Marin County, 19 homeless deaths in Central Oregon, more than 70 homeless people died in Washington D.C. this past year, 700 homeless deaths in Maricopa County, Arizona, plus 160 homeless deaths in San Antonio, Texas.

The above numbers of homeless deaths are just the tip of an horrific scenario of homeless deaths occurring across the nation, and according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, on average there are around 13,000 homeless deaths across the nation per year.

Lynda Carson may be reached at newzland2 [at] gmail.com

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