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Homeless count identifies most vulnerable to serious health risks

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 5 2013 5:50 p.m. MST

An apparent homeless person walks along North Temple in Salt Lake City Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Brian Nicholson , OKespaÑol

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SALT LAKE CITY — Preliminary results of a homeless survey conducted last week as part of a homeless count show that more than two out of five homeless people in Salt Lake County are vulnerable to serious health risks.

The 100,000 Homes: Salt Lake City Campaign surveyed homeless people throughout Salt Lake County to gather information that could help determine how to address chronic homelessness.

The goal of Registry Week was to gather a list, by name, of every vulnerable homeless individual in Salt Lake City and county using a 38-item questionnaire and eventually finding housing for everyone of them.

The data were collected by 35 teams of 91 community volunteers and 45 agency staff that canvassed streets, parks and waterways across the county, while specialized teams also targeted local homeless shelters.

The Vulnerability Index is a tool used for identifying and prioritizing the homeless population for housing according to the fragility of their health.

In addition, the volunteers also gathered data on health status, institutional history (jail, prison, hospital, and military), length of homelessness, patterns of shelter use, and previous housing situation.

Among the findings:

• 105 individuals experiencing street homelessness completed the survey.

• 573 individuals were surveyed in shelters.

• 285 (42 percent) were found to be vulnerable to health risks.

• 122 (18 percent) were “tri-morbid,” suffering from mental illness, physical illness and substance abuse.

• The average age of individuals surveyed was 47 years old, while the oldest individual was 76.

• 80 individuals surveyed were veterans.

• 207 (31 percent) said they were the victims of a violent attack since becoming homeless.

• 169 (25 percent) said they had suffered a brain injury.

The survey revealed 684 visits to the emergency room in the past 3 months, annualized to 2,736 visits with a typical cost per visit of $1,000 at annual cost of $2,736,000.

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com

Twitter: JasenLee1

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