Monday, December 21, 2009

2009 Annual Report on Homeless Deaths

HUFF Photo: Hundreds line up for a free, Thanksgiving meal at the Vets Hall in Santa Cruz, California, November 26, 2009

2009 Annual Report on Homeless Deaths

Summary of available data on homeless deaths

in Santa Cruz County

For the period December 21, 2008 – December 20, 2009

Santa Cruz County Homeless Persons’ Health Project (HPHP)

A program of the County Health Services Agency, Division of Public Health


On December 21, 1999, homeless individuals, community and family members, and homeless service providers held the first memorial service to honor individuals in Santa Cruz County who had died while homeless during the past year. Names of individuals to be memorialized were collected through an informal process and came from several sources, including records of HPHP, other homeless service organizations, and individuals in the community. At that time, no organization maintained a centralized record of homeless deaths. In years since, the annual effort to track homeless deaths in the county has been formalized and made routine.

The 2009 report and homeless memorial service marks our community’s eleventh year of collecting data, reporting on homeless deaths across the county and holding a service.

How data on homeless deaths are collected:

Throughout the year, a public health nurse at HPHP maintains a log of deaths occurring among homeless people in Santa Cruz County. The log includes information on confirmed deaths of HPHP clients, as well as confirmed reports of deaths received from other homeless service organizations, medical providers, and friends or family members of those who have died. The log also includes death certificate data compiled by the County Office of Vital Statistics, and data obtained from the County Public Administrator’s office.

The data available from this process most likely under-represent the number of homeless deaths in the county. Housing status at the time of death is neither well documented nor always easily determined. Also, information on likely factors leading to death is imprecise, and is often unknown at the time of death. For the sake of summarizing the information, we have assigned a single primary contributing factor to each death, but in many cases, there are multiple significant factors that have contributed to an individual’s death.

For this reason the data provided in this summary should not be interpreted as a definitive accounting of deaths among the homeless population in our county. Instead, this reflects our best effort at this time to collect and analyze accurate data on homeless deaths in a way that is meaningful to homeless service providers, to friends and family of those who have died, and to people who are housed and homeless in the community at large.

Discussion of 2009 Homeless Deaths:

The total number of deaths reported this year is 47. This represents the highest total number of individuals dying while homeless since 1999. The total number of homeless deaths reported in 2008 was 20, and the average number of deaths per year over the preceding eight years (2001-2008) was 32. The average age at death for 2009 was 51. This compares to an average age of 49 at death in Santa Cruz County for homeless individuals during the previous eight-year period (2001-2008). The average age of death for all Americans is 78 and this means that homeless people in our community die nearly 30 years earlier than would otherwise be expected.

32% of the deaths are attributed to metabolic illnesses including cardiopulmonary disease, liver disease, cancer, and diabetes. Another 28% of the deaths can be attributed to the complications of acute alcohol or drug intoxication, including overdoses, aspiration pneumonia, and GI bleeds. 21% of the deaths were caused by acute trauma, including four cases of a motor vehicle striking a pedestrian or bicyclist, four cases of suicide, and one homicide. 17% of the deaths are associated with infections, including pneumonia. We estimate that alcohol use or addiction was a contributing factor in at least 29 of the 47 (62%) deaths reported this year.

Homelessness causes, complicates and exacerbates serious health problems and it leads to the premature deaths of thousands of people in our communities across our nation every year. This fact is well documented. Research in the U.S. has shown that homeless persons have up to a threefold increase in mortality when compared to the general population, (Hibbs1994). Studies document an average age of death among homeless populations that ranges from 42 to 52 years, while average life expectancy for most Americans is almost 80 (O’Connell, 2005).

About the Memorial:

Our purpose in preparing and distributing this report at this time of year is two-fold; first to honor and mark the passing of all those who were homeless and have died in our community during the last year, and second, to document and increase awareness of the serious negative impact of homelessness on the lives of our fellow community members.

Our memorial service includes a reading of the names of the forty-seven people reflected in this report, and also the names of formerly homeless individuals, now housed, who died during the year. We also continue our tradition started last year of creating and displaying homeless memorial flags with the names, ages and year of death for each homeless or previously homeless person who died since December 21, 1998. This year that eleven-year total will exceed 400 people.

Nearly all of the people who died were personally known to one of us at HPHP, or to one of our colleagues at homeless service organizations throughout the county. We are saddened by their deaths, and each will be missed. We hope this information will serve to honor their memory, to guide us in our ongoing efforts to improve the health and quality of life for people while they are homeless, and to recommit ourselves as a community to ending homelessness in Santa Cruz County.


DECEMBER 21, 2008 - DECEMBER 20. 2009



Male: 39

Female: 8

3) AGE:

under 21 -- 0

41-50 -- 14

21-30 -- 3

51-60 -- 18

31-40 -- 4

over 60 -- 8

4) RACE:

White: 38

Hispanic 8

Black: 1


- Outside/Vehicle: 21

- Hospital: 16

- Nursing Facility 6

- Temporary Residence 4

- Santa Cruz 31

- Watsonville 10

- North County 2

- Mid-County 4



- cardiopulmonary 6

- liver/kidney disease 3

- cancer 3

- diabetes 2

- intracranial bleed 1


- overdose 6

- aspiration pneumonia 3

- GI Bleed 2

- arrhythmia 1

- asphyxia 1


- vehicular 4

- suicide 4

- fall 1 -

- homicide 1


- pneumonia 4

- sepsis 3

- meningitis 1


HUFF Xmas Carols

The following lyrics were written by Robert Norse, Becky Johnson, Joseph Schultz, and Valerie Christy. Two of the songs were sung by HUFF members during the 2009 Holiday Parade amid some controversy. Enjoy! --- Becky Johnson, Editor


You better not sit, you better not beg,
you better not chalk, or drink from a keg,
Sgt. Harms is coming downtown!

He's making a list, he's checking it twice
poor folks are naughty and rich folks are nice
Sgt Harms is coming downtown!

He knows if you have warrants
He knows who are the bums
He knows if you play hacky-sack
or feed the birds bread crumbs

You better just shop,'cause nothings for free.
You better be white and have an I.D.
Sgt Harms is coming Downtown!

You better not sleep, nor linger too long
nor dare to sit down while singing this song...
Sgt. Harms is coming downtown!

He knows if you're suspicious
Or hanging out while poor,
Don't beg a dime after dark downtown
You'll get tickets by the score!

The benches are gone
Get out of the parks
Don't sit in your car
Be gone after dark
Sgt. Harms is coming Downtown!

God Bless ye Merry Gentlemen

God Bless ye Merry Gentlemen
but not in Santa Cruz!
Mayor Rotkin has a Sleeping Ban
he'll cite you if you snooze
and if you're warm beneath your quilts
your blankets you shall lose
Bad tidings, not comfort or joy,
comfort or joy
Bad tidings NOT comfort or joy

The sidewalks are for business use, so don't delay or sit!
We've friendly cops with ticket books, three hundred bucks a hit.
They'll show up fast in squads of three as fast as you can spit.

Sad tidings, not comfort or joy, comfort or joy!
Sad tidings, not comfort of joy.

Yet this was made for all of us and not just for the rich
Watch out for "hosts" who prowl the street all smiling as they snitch.
And if you're mad, then just be glad, you know which way is which.

Mad tidings, not comfort or joy comfort or joy,
Mad tidings not comfort or joy.

In Santa Cruz we often fight for peace throughout the world
Discrimination isn't us, just keep your bedroll furl'd
Progressive politics with anti-poor laws here are swirled

Bad tidings, not comfort or joy, comfort or joy
Bad tidings, not comfort or joy


Oh come all ye shoppers
with creditcards and checkbooks
and bank cards and bills and coins and
lay-away accounts
Come and buy new stuff
although you don't need it
Because you must have it
Because you must have it
Because you must have it and
right now!


Away on Vacation no time for the poor
Says Mayor Mike Rotkin "No Sleep for the poor"
For thousands of homeless it's a crime just to sleep
the police will harass you in your car on the street

We love all our homeless
they even get mail
but sit, beg, or sleep and they'll wind up in jail
It's Christmas time now, time to buy lots of stuff
Your pain frightens shoppers, so the cops will get tough

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mayo Clinic Study shows children hospitalized 3X more AFTER flu vaccine

NOTE TO READER: I have been an opponent of inject-able vaccines for a number of years ever since I learned at a UCSC class on public health that the CDC data for incidences all cases of 9 major infectious diseases in the past century were largely unaffected by the introduction of a vaccine. This was true for small pox, polio, and measles alike. For example, the polio epidemic was already in steep decline by the time the vaccine was introduced. I became a skeptic at that point, and stopped vaccinating my children. (I'm a bit of a hypocrite, because I still vaccinate my cat!!). Robert Kennedy Jr. lobbied on behalf of a group of parents whose children suffer from autism. They claim that the vaccinations were the cause. To vaccinate or not is a serious choice, to which reasonable people might disagree. My older sister stopped vaccinating her children, but suffered a bout of whooping cough in her family. All survived without long term effects. Below is an article from Science Daily which reports the results of a Mayo Clinic study which posted results that should have been main headlines in May of 2009, but somehow weren't.

-- Becky Johnson, editor

Children Who Get Flu Vaccine Have Three Times Risk Of Hospitalization For Flu, Study Suggests

found at:

ScienceDaily (May 20, 2009) — The inactivated flu vaccine does not appear to be effective in preventing influenza-related hospitalizations in children, especially the ones with asthma. In fact, children who get the flu vaccine are more at risk for hospitalization than their peers who do not get the vaccine, according to new research that will be presented on May 19, at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego.

Flu vaccine (trivalent inactivated flu vaccine—TIV) has unknown effects on asthmatics.

"The concerns that vaccination maybe associated with asthma exacerbations have been disproved with multiple studies in the past, but the vaccine's effectiveness has not been well-established," said Avni Joshi, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. "This study was aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of the TIV in children overall, as well as the children with asthma, to prevent influenza-related hospitalization."

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend annual influenza vaccination for all children aged six months to 18 years. The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (3rd revision) also recommends annual flu vaccination of asthmatic children older than six months.

In order to determine whether the vaccine was effective in reducing the number of hospitalizations that all children, and especially the ones with asthma, faced over eight consecutive flu seasons, the researchers conducted a cohort study of 263 children who were evaluated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota from six months to 18 years of age, each of whom had had laboratory-confirmed influenza between 1996 to 2006. The investigators determined who had and had not received the flu vaccine, their asthma status and who did and did not require hospitalization. Records were reviewed for each subject with influenza-related illness for flu vaccination preceding the illness and hospitalization during that illness.

They found that children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization, as compared to children who had not received the vaccine. In asthmatic children, there was a significantly higher risk of hospitalization in subjects who received the TIV, as compared to those who did not (p= 0.006). But no other measured factors—such as insurance plans or severity of asthma—appeared to affect risk of hospitalization.

"While these findings do raise questions about the efficacy of the vaccine, they do not in fact implicate it as a cause of hospitalizations," said Dr. Joshi. "More studies are needed to assess not only the immunogenicity, but also the efficacy of different influenza vaccines in asthmatic subjects."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

SENTINEL accuses HUFF of "crashing" Holiday Parade

by Becky Johnson

December 6, 2009

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom participated in the Human Rights Fair at Louden Nelson Community Center for the 2nd year in a row. This year, Robert Norse received an e-mail from the organizers of the event inviting HUFF to participate in the Holiday parade. We were told we would be marching with the United Nations Association of Santa Cruz County and were told where and when to gather.

Here is the text of the e-mail Robert Norse received after contacting the UN Association of Santa Cruz County stating HUFF's intention of participating in the Human Rights Fair.

Subject: second part of Instructions
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009 13:53:35 -0800

Instructions for Booths

Thank you for participating in our Second Annual Human Rights Fair. I am enclosing a copy of all the events that weekend. Also enclosed is the list of the booths in the three rooms.

Louden Nelson Center is open on Saturday Dec. 5 at 9 am. You can get a parking permit at the office if you need to leave your car more than two hours.

Please have your booth set up by 11 am and close up at 5.45 since we need to clean up.

There will be a Human Rights contingent in the Holiday Parade under the auspices of the United Nations
Association near the beginning of the parade. Please join us if you can. The Fair officially opens at 11:30 am.
There will be plenty of inexpensive delicious food made by Heavenly Nibbles in room 3.

If your organization is marked with an asterisk, it means we have not received your check. If there is a question mark , we have not had a confirmation from you and you may lose your table.
Please send your check to UNA % Pat Arnold 181 Branciforte Ridge Santa Cruz 950065. Call me at 425-7618 if these instructions are not clear.

On the morning of the parade, eight HUFF members assembled wearing winter clothing, scarves and earmuffs to have a carolers look. Our plan was to sing Christmas Carols which we had rewritten to have a local theme. HUFF has done this in the past, with such favorites as "Away on Vacation" "Joy to the World, its time to shop," but this year we added "Sgt. Harms is coming downtown." Robert Norse wore his dress bathrobe in solidarity with homeless people who must perform their toiletries in public places, and sporting a teddy bear, walked up and down the crowds passing out HUFF flyers.

As we entered the parade, Chip, the Executive Director of the Downtown Association approached us telling us that we weren't allowed in the parade. Robert explained that we had indeed been invited and that we were a paid participant later that day at the United Nations Association of Santa Cruz County's Human Rights Fair at Louden Nelson Center. Chip backed of and let us pass.

Shortly into the parade, a yellow "thing" pulled in line behind us. It was driven by a man dressed as Santa Claus and had the words "Caterpillar" in black on the passenger-side front end. The driver repeatedly gunned his engine causing excessive noise and car exhaust to fill the parade route. One HUFF members walked back and asked the driver to stop as the fumes he was generating were aggravating his asthma. The Santa-driver just smiled and waved and kept doing it.

We sang the same two songs over and over again while "Vision Song" Valerie Christy played guitar. The other song we sang was "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, but not in Santa Cruz" which included these new lyrics by Joe Schultz:

"In Santa Cruz we often fight for peace throughout the world,
Discrimination isn't us, just keep your bedroll furl'd,

Progressive politics with anti-poor laws swirled,
---Bad tidings, not comfort or joy, comfort or joy...."

As we passed Soquel Ave., a woman in a tee-shirt with a "I (heart) the Santa Cruz Police" bumper sticker plastered across her belly, pulled along side of us. She had a megaphone in her hand and she matched her pace with us singing very loudly and very badly into her megaphone. Between stanzas of "Santa Claus is coming to town"she enthusiastically shouted "I love the Santa Cruz Police Department!! Oooowhh!" At first I kept pace with her and sang OUR song side by side, but she quickly outdistanced me (I was still getting over a flu, so my lungs weren't in the best of shape). So I hung back and sang two lines for every clump of parade watchers. I wasn't filming anymore, just letting the camera pick up the sound.

Since she had drowned out our voices, I just wanted them to hear a little bit of what had been singing. Words that apparently had to be censored, harassed, and drowned out.

"The sidewalks are for business use, so don't delay or sit!
We've friendly cops with ticket books, three hundred bucks a hit"

Your browser is not able to display this multimedia content.

Video by Becky Johnson, edited by Rick.

Later, en route to the Louden Nelson Center where the HUFF table was set up, I sighted the new Penguin sculptures on Pacific Ave. I immediately understood why Ryan Coonerty had pushed to have a new ordinance forbidding sitting, begging, setting up a political table, or playing music for donations within 10 feet of a statue. At the time, I had shook my head at the idiocy of it. I mean a real, live musician playing in the downtown is forever silenced to acquiesce to the possible need of a passerby to gaze at a stony statue unobstructed? When I found out the entire downtown was being used as gallery space for a for-profit gallery, and that sculptures were being installed up and down the avenue, I realized that this was art being used as a tool of social cleansing, via our own Redevelopment Agency.

I resolved to organize a boycott of the artists whose work is displayed downtown.

Many different groups set up a booth as part of the Human Rights Fair. We gathered signatures on petitions, and shared Chai, hot chocolate, and 7-11 Cappuccino, and signed up people for our HUFF yahoogroups mailing list.

Ruth Hunter, longtime social justice activist and peace worker greeted most folks by the door. In 1997, Hunter supported HUFF's effort to put repeal of the Sleeping Ban onto the ballot for a citywide election. Despite endorsements by SCAN, WILPF, the UN Association of Santa Cruz County, the effort fell short of the necessary 10% of verified signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

When American Civil Liberties Union member, Mayor Mike Rotkin spoke on behalf of the ACLU, HUFF members watched and listened. Later when Rotkin sat down in the audience to listen to the remaining speakers, Robert Norse and Curbhugger Chris joined him with signs about the Sleeping Ban. He didn't stay long.

We talked to many who came to the Human Rights Fair. Most of those who came and talked to us had nothing but positive things to say about the work HUFF does to affect the City's homeless policies. Around 5PM, Robert Norse spoke to the remaining audience members and 4 HUFF members joined him to sing our songs one more time, this time without being drowned out by megaphones or revving engines. The audience loved it!

On December 6th, I read in the SENTINEL the following passage in an article entitled "Holiday Parade brings cheer to downtown Santa Cruz" by Alia Wilson:

"Adding to the Santa Cruz flavor, members of the Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom group crashed the event to protest the downtown sleeping ban. The eight protesters passed out fliers as they strolled Pacific Avenue, but many families did not take note of the display as the sounds of the parade filled the air.

"At some point, they were complaining they couldn't sing, that they weren't allowed to and that it was against human rights," Krista Lazier of Santa Cruz said. "It seems like their message could have fit with the parade but it was odd."

HUFF did not "crash" the parade, per the e-mail posted above. And the "sounds of the parade" were the gunning of a motor and a woman with a megaphone trying to shout us down!" So that way, the SENTINEL makes us the culprits when they should have portrayed us as the victims. So much for the newspaper of record!!