An increase in homeless deaths in Cedar Rapids

Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 11:03 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The city of Cedar Rapids remembered 30 people who died while facing homelessness since the beginning of 2021.

It was all part of National Homeless Persons’ Day. The day is usually viewed on December 21st but was postponed until Wednesday because of the winter storm.

30 candles were lit for 30 people who all had stories of their own.

“They were all really good people,” said Aaron Terrones, the Willis Dady Homeless Shelter Support Services Director.

Terrones worked together with people living on the street. He said remembrance days helped to show that people continue to face barriers to proper housing. Those 30 people were only the ones they know about. The city doesn’t have a database; it says those were only the people Willis Dady and other homeless advocates had interactions with.

“They’re my neighbors who don’t have houses,” he said. “They’re just trying to survive every day.”

He said there was a variety of reasons for the increase in deaths including health concerns, drugs, and suicide.

“Homeless people experience a wider variety of threats to their life,” he said.

The Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission Investigator, Jennifer Tibbetts, said the issues were only growing. She said the number of people facing homelessness has quadrupled since 2017.

“There has been so much loss and pain,” said Tibbetts. “People really don’t understand or know about that.”

She said the stresses were more than statistics. They have friends, families, and stories, and deserve better.

“These are good people with big hearts,” said Terrones. “They deserve to be remembered.”