(KCPW News) Governor Huntsman will declare today Homeless Memorial Day at a candlelight vigil to honor homeless people who have died this year in Utah. Jennifer Hyvonen with the Fourth Street Clinic says 53 people in the state died while homeless this year at an average age of just 49. She says the homeless face illnesses that most people don't deal with until their seventies.
"A lot of these deaths, when you really look at the causes of why these people have died, they are really from preventable and treatable illnesses. So to us, this doesn't have to happen, these deaths can be preventable, with affordable health care and affordable housing. So, it's a reminder to the community to re-commit ourselves to those things," Hyvonen said.
Hyvonen says while there are a few cases of violence or substance abuse, most die from heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, or respiratory illnesses. She says more needs to be done to create affordable health care programs.
She also notes that affordable housing is a big issue.
"Utah has an abundance of housing, but very little is affordable to very low income and even just low income Utahns. So there is a lot of housing, but it's more on the higher end scale. We really could just use policy from state and county and city governments, more programs to provide housing for lower income people," Hyvonen said.
Hyvonen says programs like Housing First are working, but the state needs more programs with bigger capacity. Mayors Ralph Becker and Peter Corroon and will also be attending tonight's vigil. It will start at 5:30 at Pioneer Park.