Men's Shelter of Charlotte

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Homelessness and the Weather

Did you know very few people experiencing homelessness die from exposure to the weather?  Neither hypothermia (exposure to cold) or hyperthermia (exposure to heat) is hardly ever the primary cause of death. 

In 2012, Philadelphia released a significant research report, City of Philadelphia Homeless Death Review, analyzing data from 2009-2010.  Of 90 people experiencing homelessness who died during 2009-2010, the top five primary causes of death were

  1. drug intoxication or alcoholism,
  2. circulatory system diseases,
  3. injury,
  4. diseases of an infectious etiology, and
  5. cancer. 

Only 6% of deaths resulted primarily from hypothermia and hyperthermia combined. 

The other important finding in their report was that homeless deaths do not follow a clear pattern of increase during cold months.  In fact, almost 50% of the deaths studied in Philadelphia’s review occurred during the six months between April and September, the hottest months of the year (annual average high and low temperatures are strikingly similar in Philadelphia and Charlotte). 

The reason I’m sharing this information is to debunk a major myth.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard over the years, “now that’s its getting warmer I bet fewer people need shelter because they can stay outside.” 

It’s not about the weather, it’s about the other issues that cause death among people experiencing homelessness – poor health, accidents and injuries, and terminal illnesses – issues that can be exacerbated in hot and cold temperatures but are independent of the weather.  It’s about making sure our citizens experiencing homelessness have safe shelter and assistance year round, not just in the winter months. 

As we approach the first day of summer (June 21st), and prepare for pool parties, summer vacations, and time on the lake, please take a moment to support the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte with your time, treasure, and talent.  We’re working hard 24/7/365 to help all men experiencing homelessness stay safe, healthy, and move beyond homelessness.

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