Students Co-Author Ground-Breaking Study on Homeless Deaths
A new study on homeless deaths in Los Angeles County co-authored by two Occidental College students and the head of the L.A. Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness has had a significant impact on public policy debates and drawn national media attention.
The report, “Dying Without Dignity,” investigated 2,815 homeless deaths between January 2000 and May 2007, based on statistics provided by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. Released Dec. 21, it is available as a PDF on the Coalition's website.
The report has been the subject of stories in newspapers and on TV and radio stations around the country, including the Los Angeles Times and Daily News, and has helped influence the debate over housing, human services, and police policy in Los Angeles.
Juniors Whitney Hawke of Portland, Oregon, and Max Davis of Minneapolis, both majoring in urban and environmental policy, did internships with the coalition as part of Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics Peter Dreier’s “Community Organizing” course last semester.
“Whitney and Max were the heart and soul of doing the report, from start to finish,” Erlenbusch said in an interview. “They were almost 100% responsible for analyzing the data,” as well as for writing the report, he said.
“Looking to the past, the study paints a sad and frustrating picture of thousands of homeless people whose lives could have been saved with appropriate funding for homeless health care and rehabilitation,” said Hawke, who ultimately plans to become a city attorney in her hometown. “Looking to the future, this research reveals the fierce reality that homeless health is a serious issue in Los Angeles. The report describes the starting point from which policymakers can act out and make a change by improving the city's stance on homelessness and helping people get back on their feet instead of letting them die in the streets.”
“They were extremely helpful, amazing resources for the coalition to have,” Erlenbusch said of Hawke and Davis. “And I give a lot of credit to Peter Dreier for getting his students out in the community.”