We Will Remember

Veteran Laray Kreplin watches the 29th Homeless Person’s Memorial on the steps of the City and County Building. Kreplin was homeless for several years, but says he now lives with social security in a subsidized apartment through the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

Veteran Laray Kreplin watches the 29th Homeless Person’s Memorial on the steps of the City and County Building. Kreplin was homeless for several years, but says he now lives with social security in a subsidized apartment through the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

By Sarah Ford | Photos by Giles Clasen 

Days before Christmas, people gathered to honor those who died on the streets in 2018. In the past year, at least 233 people died while homeless in the Denver area, the fourth year in a row to set a new record of deaths recorded in a single year. 

Denver again saw a record high number of people die while living on the streets in 2018. On December 21, 2018, a crowd of about 150 people gathered to honor the at least 233 people who died while experiencing homelessness in the metro area. 

It is the fourth year in a row that the number of homeless deaths in Denver has risen, up from 231 names in 2017. It is the most names included in the annual vigil since it began 29 years ago. 

“For too many, this will be the only memorial service they will have,” said John Parvensky, president and CEO of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH). “Tonight we remember them, we remember them all.” 

Each year, the coalition organizes the Homeless Person Memorial Vigil, held on the steps of the City and County Building in downtown Denver. It is one of dozens of memorials held across the nation on Homeless Persons Memorial Day, which falls on the longest night of the year. 

“With the growing affordable housing crisis we are seeing in our community, we are unfortunately likely to see more individuals dying prematurely in the coming year. In a community as rich as ours, it is unconscionable that there are still those without decent shelter and housing,” said Parvensky. “This is not a failure of theirs, it is a failure of ours.”

CCH gathers the names through a collaboration with the Denver Medical Examiner’s Office, which provided 110 names, and the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, which provided 123 names. After the vigil, eight people also shouted out names of those who passed and were not listed, bringing the total to at least 241 people. 

According to the World Health Organization, life expectancy for Coloradans as of 2016 is 78.1 years. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the life expectancy of persons experiencing homelessness to be just in the 40s. Mortality among the homeless population has increased by four to nine times, according to the CDC, due to unique challenges such as chronic illness, infections, violence, poor mental health, and substance abuse. 

Cause of death and demographic information for those who died was available on only 91 individuals at the time of the vigil. The Denver Medical Examiner’s Office had data for deaths occurring between November 1, 2017, and the end of October 2018. 

In that time, out of 91 deaths, 27 were identified as being primarily due to drug overdoses, including opioids and other substances. 

It comes a year after Colorado reported the highest number of deaths due to drug overdoses in state history. In 2017, the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment determined that at least 1,012 people died of overdoses across the state, higher than the number of people killed in car crashes. 

In 2018, difficulty in accessing medical care and resources to overcome drug addictions continued for the Denver homeless community. Arapahoe House, the largest drug and alcohol treatment center in the metro region, closed its doors in January 2018. Nearly 90 percent of its patients received little to no income. 

“We must re-double our efforts to expand adequate, and available, and accessible substance treatment options for those who are addicted, and to provide safe and affordable housing to help reduce and end homelessness in our community,” Parvensky said. 

The Medical Examiner’s Office also found that physical trauma accounted for 23 deaths, heart disease for 13, and the rest of the 91 confirmed deaths were listed as due to alcohol, hypothermia, pneumonia, or other diseases. 

According to the coalition, at least 1,348 people experiencing homelessness in the metro region have died since 2008. 

Before names were read at the vigil, Randel Loeb — a CCH board member, formerly houseless individual, and a founding member of the VOICE — read a memoriam to those who had died. 

“We will not be denied, we will never be denied,” he said. “We will rise no matter what. We will survive, no matter how. We’ll rise. We’re people who have contributed the utmost with our sweat, our tears, our lives.” ■

Denver’s Homeless Memorial

During a candlelight vigil last month, Denver mourned those who lived on the streets of Denver and passed away in 2018. We have printed their names here to honor their memories. 

Tanisha Alton

Phillip Alvarez

Jeffrey Anderson

Gerlinde Andrews

Robert Atencio

Kent Austin, III

Daniel Bacon

Victor Barela

Thomas Barringer

Brad Beasley

Dennis Neal Beckel

Ernest Benally

Earl Black

Richard Boehler

Nicole Boston

Cynthia Brandin

Jordan Brody

Willie Brown, III

Michael Bryant

Phillip Buchanan

Susan Bullock

Willie Lee Caldwell

Kenneth Cash

Angel Castillano (a.k.a. Phillip Martinez)

Angel Cerna, Jr.

Robert Chapman

Edward Chavez

Frank Andrew Clifford (a.k.a. Drew)

Michael Clothier

Jerome Coleman

Dave Conder

Catrina Cordova

Gayleen Cornelius

Jerome Coronado (a.k.a. Rome)

Noel Crawford

Heather Cross

Leroy Cunningham

Raymond Davies

Jimmy Davis

Anthony Del Duca

Mark Derden

Jeannette Dobbs

Brenda Dreiling

John Droegemueller

Deseree Duchene

Joseph Duran

Michael Elkins

Raquel Elliott

Roxie Ellis Perry (a.k.a. Damien)

William Erickson

Michael Eversole

Valeria Fernandez

Karen Fessler

Anthony Fields

Monica Fite

Rita Flammond

Gregory Flatt

Dana Franklin (a.k.a. Randy)

Leslie Gallegos

Joseph Garcia (a.k.a. Mayor)

Sabrina Garcia

Robert Garside

Jason Gauvin

Joseph Gibson

Frank James Gilford

Billy Grant

Andre Griffith

Richard Grove

Nicholas Guest

David Gurule

Jody Haley

Stevin Hamilton

Rashard Hamlin

Diane Hampton

Wayne Hand

Thomas Hansen

Shawn Hart

Jeffrey Harthman

Christian Henry

Dwight Hensen

Thomas Higgins

Phillip Hodgkinson

Ronald Hoffman

Judi Hollis

Vincent Hoyos

Larry Hubbell

Jeffrey Hudnall

Karrie Hudson

John Huerena

Anthony Huff

Jeffery Huffman

Mitchell Hundt

Edward Louis Jackson

Jacob Jaramillo

Charles Ray Johnson

Sean Johnson

Barbara Jones (a.k.a. Wallender)

Alan Joyce

Allen Kay

Patrick Kelly

Kennedy Kindness

Elizabeth King

Steven King

Lacinda Kissiah

Mark Kline

Steven Koglin

Norbert Krehl, II

Terry Laetch

Robert Lane

Anthony Manuel Lanford

Louis D. LaPlaca

Gregory Lee Herrera

Erich Leimgrubler

Bruce Lewis

Carol Livingston

Margaret Long

Arturo Lopez

Adam Loring

William Loring Jones III

Dean Lucero

Mike Lucero

Victor Lynch

Michael Maddox

Ida Maestas

Shirley Mahannah

David Mann

Roger Mapes

Adrian March

Johnny Mares

Leanne Mares

Boyd Martin

Brandon Martin (a.k.a. Meatloaf)

Eric Martin

James W.  Martin, Jr.

Hector Martinez

Jamie D. Martinez

Armando Mauleon Servin

Christine Mays

Kevin Mays, Jr.
 (a.k.a Mayes)

Gary McCartney

Ann McClelland

Terry McClure

Phillip Meadows

Franklin Meagher (a.k.a. Frankie)

Dennis Miller

Timothy Miller

Lorrie R. Mills-Holmes

Arlene Mondragon

Bernabe Montiel

James Montoya

Bryan Moore

Edward F. Moore

Seth Mosse

Rogelio Munoz, Jr.

Kimberly Murdock

Louis Neal

Tolani Ned

Robin  Nelson (a.k.a. Rob)

Leroy Nuanes

James Odom

Debra Oliea

Damson Ortega

Zach Palmer

Michael Pappas

John Paulin

Judith Diana Pearson

Martin Perez

Russell Petersen

Mark Peterson

Jeff Pewo

Mark Phillips

Carol Pretty

Noe Quevedo Valle

Catarino Ramirez

Bridget Riley

Dottie Robertson

Enrique Rocha

Michael Rohr

Vincent Rush

David Ruth

Karen Ryan

Frederick Saiz

Derrick Salone

Roshii Salter

Antonio San Javier Arriaga

Paul Scantland

Kelly Schlehuber

Maria Schneider

Lazaro Sequer

Alan Shaw

Brandi Shaw

Randall Shaw

Gary Simpson

Richard Simpson

Richard Singer

Arthur Singleton

Lonnie Smith

Lee Snively

Mary Sorensen

Jacob Sowell

Shaun Speer

Rick Springer

Kimberly Stebritz

David Stradley

William Thomas

William Thompson

Jim Torres

Robert Joe Trimble

Berkley Turner

Michael Tuttle

Tomasitto Ulloa, Jr.

Raymond Underwood

Manuel Valdez

Daniel Van Raam

Frank Van Wier

Adolph Vigil

Anthony Vigil

Ronald Vigil, Jr.

Timothy Ray Walker

Dennis Warax

Terrance Edward Wardlow

Steven Weideman

Monique Wiley

James Williams

Sidney Williams

Mark Wilson

Rick Wolf

Jan Worldturner

Robert E. Wright

Mark Youel

Richard Young

Christopher Zamudio (a.k.a. Boston)

Damian Zukowski

Missy Mishflanagan stands with her children, Sean and Mimi, during the vigil. Mishflanagan works with homeless veterans at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Missy Mishflanagan stands with her children, Sean and Mimi, during the vigil. Mishflanagan works with homeless veterans at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.